Review: Rivers hilarious at Blaisdell

Jul. 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
Joan Rivers performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Joan Rivers performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Joan Rivers is 80 years old. She mentioned it on stage so it’s not like I’m “outing” her or anything, but I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a comic of any age or either gender work with the intensity and nonstop energy that Rivers delivered for a full hour on Wednesday, July 3, at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Rivers entertained relentlessly. The energy level spiked when she came out — to a standing ovation, and she earned it — and it stayed there for the next hour. There were a few moments when she wasn’t talking — like when she was doing the sketch about pushing her husband’s wheelchair up a very, very, very long ramp — but the show was an intense and fast-moving experience.

How fast-moving was it, you ask? It was so fast-moving that even if you missed a punch line from time to time the next punch line came so quickly that the show was still nonstop funny.

And talk about energy! The hour with Rivers was refreshing and invigorating. It was, like, wow!

Local ukulele virtuoso Taimane Gardner opens for Joan Rivers at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Local ukulele virtuoso Taimane Gardner opens for Joan Rivers at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Rivers set the mood before the show officially got under way. “Uncle Tom” Moffatt was announcing the show from backstage, going through a long-than-usual version of the standard pre-show announcements about no smoking, no flash photography and so on, when Rivers’ unmistakable voice was heard chiming in with additional do’s and don’ts for show.

Rivers continued to work from backstage as she introduced the opening act, Taimane Gardner, as “the best opening act in her price range.” Some in the audience got it, others didn’t.

When Rivers took the stage 20 minutes later to that standing ovation, she quickly lived up to expectations and delivered everything she talked about doing in last Friday’s TGIF cover story. Yes, she is a refreshing antidote to political correctness or all types. Yes, she says things that are shocking — or certainly could be. Yes, she says things a lot of people are probably thinking but are hesitant to say out loud. And, yes, she is, as quoted last Friday, “an equal opportunity disliker” whose targets include herself.

For instance, Rivers doesn’t like old people. She also made jokes about Jews (she is Jewish).

A comment about losing all her relatives at Auschwitz — “They were on the other tour bus and it had a flat tire” — was clever, shocking, edgy and “I can’t believe she said that,” all in two seconds’ time. She continued in the same vein with a joke about visiting the Auschwitz gift shop, and then with a comment she made when visiting a bakery in Germany.

Rivers had laid out the perameters early in the show when she quoted the late Lenny Bruce, a pioneering stand-up comedian/social critic of the 1950′s and early ‘60s: “He used to start his act by pointing out to everybody and saying ‘You’re an (n—–), you’re a kike, you’re a gook, everybody’s something, so who cares?’”

Point taken.

It’s unlikely anyone who bought a ticket to last night’s show was surprised or shocked Rivers’ comments on say, Mexicans or Michael Jackson or Adele or Princess Di or Barbra Streisand or Chaz Bono or Taylor Swift or Mother Theresa or Goldie Hawn or Soon-Yi Previn or “that little lesbian, Justin Bieber.”

Some who are reading this review here might be. I’ll leave it there.

Yes, Rivers is “equal opportunity” in terms of her targets and subject matter.

Joan Rivers accepts a lei from a fan during her performance at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Joan Rivers accepts a lei from a fan during her performance at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Rivers’ comments about the current fad of swimming with sharks utilized her acting skills as well as her wit. If you weren’t there and want Rivers’ take on how to survive the experience, ask someone who was to explain it.

Rivers welcomed “my gays” to the show. Judging from the response she got, the male gay community was well-represented. She also welcomed lesbians — those who responded were evidently seated in the back of the house.

In addition to welcoming gays to the show, Rivers made it clear she also has respect and admiration for Chinese women.

“Get the money. That’s what counts,” was a popular refrain throughout the evening and a useful life-lesson to go home with. She also advised women to “Think like a second wife — grab and take!”

And did she have some hilarious comments about sex and sexual techniques? Did she ever!

Rivers described the experience of being trapped with annoying children on a long plane flight: “Where is Casey Anthony when we need her?”

Joan Rivers on stage at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Joan Rivers on stage at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 3. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

And, referring to a person she considers stunningly unattractive, Rivers posed this question: “If she were a cow would you want to tip her (over)?”

Rivers added a completely different dimension to the evening when she asked pianist Dan Del Negro to help her climb on his piano — and moments later asked him help her get off it. It was a fine moment of physical comedy. Other than that, Del Negro and the other members of Rivers’ backing group — Bruce Hamada (electric bass) and Garin Poliahu (drums) — had almost nothing to do except spend an hour laughing along with everybody in the audience.

There were a few relatively serious moments as well. Rivers mentioned a couple of times how lucky she is to be doing three television shows at the age of 80. Five years ago, she said, no one was interested.

And, in bidding the audience good night, Rivers said we are lucky to the living in the United States.

I waited for a zinger to follow that one. There wasn’t one. And, yes, compared to the problems that people in many other parts of the world have to deal with — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Xinjiang, Tibet — we are indeed lucky to be living in the United States.

Rivers capped the show with gesture that certainly made the night for several lucky fans. She picked up the pots of flowers that were decorating the stage and handed them — pots and all — to some of the folks down front.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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