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August 20, 2014

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Comedy:

At 76, Joan Rivers still active, still caustic

Q+A: Joan Rivers returning to Vegas for stand-up shows after five years away

Beyond the Sun

If You Go

  • Who: Joan Rivers
  • When: 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and Sept. 3-5
  • Where: Venetian Showroom
  • Tickets: $45.75 to $85.75; 414-9000

Better living through cosmetic surgery. That could be Joan Rivers’ mantra after more than a dozen operations altering her lips, breasts, nose, stomach, eyes and arms.

But doctors never touched her tongue, which remains scalpel sharp.

“I’m excited about coming to the Venetian for three reasons,” the 76-year-old Rivers said in a telephone interview from New York City. “One, the showroom is great, not too large. Two, the Venetian is a fantasy. Three, I get to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ free.”

Five years have passed since Rivers’ last Vegas performance. She’s been busy — hawking her jewelry and skin care products on TV, starring in her own play, appearing on “Celebrity Apprentice” and starting a new TV show.

And, of course, going under the knife.

Why have you stayed away from Vegas for so long?

I’ve just been really busy. It sounds stupid but I do QVC. I did a play in England for six months.

How do you manage to cram so much into the day?

I’m very lucky I guess because I have no life. Seriously, I love the business. I’m never happier than when I’m onstage or writing or creating something. It never, never stops.

Your interests are all over the map.

There are two ways you can describe me. I’m either a major entrepreneur or I’m beyond shallow. I just figure when I’m offered something, “Oh try it. What have you got to lose?” They say, “You want to do jewelry?” Yes, love to try it. “Do you want to do this?” Absolutely. “Do you want to direct a movie?” You got it. “You want to work in England?” Absolutely.

And it has always worked out for me. Life’s an adventure. It never stops. I never say no to anything.

How did your early days shape your personality and your comedy?

I had a very happy childhood, except being raped constantly by all my relatives. No, we can’t say that. I don’t know. I think what shaped my childhood, my parents thought you were very beautiful and then you go to school and you find out the truth and you spend the rest of your life saying “I’ll show you.”

Is your comedy as risque as it used to be?

Most comedy today is very risque. I have always been on the edge, but on the edge when I started in the late ’60s, early ’70s is now so sweet. My first album was about my hairdresser. It was called “Mr. Phyllis and Other Funny Stories.” Back then people thought that was outrageous. Now, it is the sweetest thing.

Have you changed your act to make it edgier?

Somebody said to me, “You’re more relevant than anybody.” I thought that was such a nice thing to say. So obviously I’m totally changing. I don’t realize it. I don’t sit down and say. “Oh, I’m going to change.” I just read everything and I’m constantly upgrading everything. I don’t want to talk about what just happened. I never go down memory lane.

Is there any subject you would avoid?

No. If I want to talk about it, I talk about it.

Even politics?

I get into politics constantly, all the time, but on a very shallow level. Like, I’m sick of seeing Michelle Obama’s arms. That’s not deep.

Tell us about your TV show, “How Did You Get So Rich?”

We found people who, with no help from anybody, became multimillionaires. The stories are amazing and funny. We go through their houses, find out how much everything costs and we see all their toys. You always go past a house like in Indianapolis and you’ll go, “How did they get so rich?” People are very curious. So I stop and ring the doorbell, but with some forewarning.

You were roasted recently on Comedy Central. Did you take offense at any of the comments?

Oh, no. I think they all hit home runs. I knew they were going to go after me. Plastic surgery. QVC. I got a chance to go off on each one of them. I just let them all have it.

Speaking of plastic surgery, do you have any more operations coming up?

As needed. When you look at yourself on television and go “Yuck,” it’s time.

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