She made her Broadway debut in Fun City, a 1972 comedy she co-wrote with her late husband Edgar Rosenberg and Lester Colodny. She did a run as Kate, the mother, in the 1980s Neil Simon comedy Broadway Bound. And she was nominated for a Tony Award in 1994 for her performance in the title role of Sally Marr...and her escorts, which she also wrote, along with Lonny Price and Erin Sanders. That's about a play every ten years. And right on schedule, she's come up with a new stage project for the first decade of the 21st century. Called The Joan Rivers Theatre Project for now, it began a workshop at San Francisco's Magic Theatre on Aug. 16. Rivers talked to Playbill.com about her recurring need to return to the theatre.
Playbill.com: Where did you get the inspiration for this new play?
Joan Rivers: It's based on something that happened to me at the TV Guide Channel that was outrageous, and I thought, "This will make a great play."
Playbill.com: What was the outrageous thing that happened to you?
JR: I don't really want to go into it because it's really what the play is about. It's about the business and aging and women getting through and things you can change and things you can't change. And it's about hope. I love the ending, because it's absolutely about hope. The Dodgers wanted to produce it, and Jerry Zaks was going to direct it. We all loved each other. But, then, by the time I did a rewrite, I thought, "Ahhh, let me try out of town first." You don't bring things into New York unless you know this is going to be a "Wow."
Playbill.com: The main character in the play is supposed to be you, right? There's no pseudonym or anything.
JR: No. It's me. And the characters around me are all made up. There are three other characters. Playbill.com: How did you come to pick San Francisco's Magic Theatre for the tryout?
JR: I was looking for a place that would be small, that was serious and was far from New York. Sam Shepard brings his plays here. Elaine May has started plays here. Their pride is they will never produce something that has already been produced in this country.
Playbill.com: What made you think this story needed to be a play, as opposed to a screenplay or teleplay?
JR: I'm a New York girl. I'm a theatre person. Tell me what it is, I've seen it. On Broadway and Off-Broadway and above Broadway. I go to theatre at least three times a week. So I always think in terms of theatre.
Playbill.com: Do Broadway producers often court you to star in their shows?
JR: Yeah. And I just got an offer from England, to come in for Boeing-Boeing. Yes, they do. But you want to do something that you really adore. I did Broadway Bound and I adored it. It was like someone gave you a gift every night.
Playbill.com: You've had a very varied career. What corner of your career do you feel the theatre lives in?
JR: After my first childhood, that was the first dream. My parents were great theatergoers. From a very early age, I was brought to theatre. It was during World War II, my mother brought me to some play. I remember it as a teensy-weensy child. I'd even go to the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Saturdays.
Playbill.com: In this new play, is your character on stage the entire time?
JR: Constantly. Once I go off to change into a bathrobe. And I'm talking offstage.
Playbill.com: Does the character ever talk to the audience?
Playbill.com: How many years ago did this incident at the TV Guide Channel happen?
JR: Three and a half years ago. It almost represented the whole business. It really just summed it all up, that one afternoon. I thought, "Oh, God!" Everything that's bad and nasty. I love television. My life is on television. You don't want to knock that. But there are certain aspects of every business where you go, "This represents the worst."