Joan Rivers (right) talks to brothers David Z (from left), Paulie Z and Joey Cassata in "Z Rock" a partly scripted reality show on IFC. (AP/IFC)
After more than 40-plus years in show business, Joan Rivers is embarking on a first: a regular role on a weekly sitcom.
So what's taken her so long to do this?
''I've never been asked,'' says the legendary comedian. ''Never. Spell it out. 'N' is for 'never.' 'E' is for 'ever.' Never been asked. I am the only person in America who has not been asked to act in a series. If you wait for them to ask, it will never happen.''
So she jumped at the chance to play herself in a supporting role on ''Z Rock,'' airing 10:30 p.m. Sundays on IFC.
The improvised comedy follows the travails of a rock band that pays the bills by playing children's parties while working to hit the big time.
The premise is loosely based on the real-life band ZO2, which made connections in show business by doing children's parties for celebrities and executives in New York City. The members of that trio play themselves.
In the series, Rivers drops by to offer advice to her niece (played by Lynne Koplitz), who manages the band. Rivers saw a cut of the show's pilot and told her manager she'd love to appear in the series, but only if she had a regular role on it.
''When I saw it, I just loved it,'' she says, ''and what fun to be fourth or fifth down (in the cast list). I don't have the burden of having to carry it. I can just come in, do my lines and have fun. I go home, get a thank-you for doing the show and maybe some flowers.''
Rivers says she isn't doing the show for the money. ''I don't know what the guys [in ZO2] are getting paid, but, I'll tell you, this is last year's coat.''
''Z Rock'' is shot in New York, allowing Rivers to stay closer to home. ''I'm giving myself a cookie,'' she says of doing the show. ''It's a reward.''
In the mid-1980s, she fronted ''The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,'' a highly anticipated talk show that was marred by network feuds and backstage battles. Later on she did a daytime talk program, ''The Joan Rivers Show,'' which ran for five years.
In more recent years, Rivers has done specials for Bravo and red-carpet interviews for E! and the TV Guide Channel. She left E! for TV Guide, which unceremoniously parted ways with her and her daughter, Melissa Rivers, in 2007.
''I love E! I adore E! TV Guide just up and died,'' she says. ''They let us go. We brought them their highest numbers. It was very stupid of them.''
Rivers is also writing books and has her line of jewelry she sells on QVC.
However, ''people never think of me for [TV] roles,'' she says. ''I've done Broadway and been Tony-nominated, but when it comes to television, no one thinks of me.''
She says she's counting her blessings these days, no matter the work. At 75, Rivers entertains no thoughts of retiring.
''I grew up watching George Burns. I watched Lucille Ball work up until the end,'' she says. ''I am lucky. I get to keep doing what I love.
''We weren't the pretty girls. We weren't asked to dance first, but we get to stay late at the party, and that's nice.''
Rivers says that being nostalgic is not her style. ''I never think about age. I never think about the past,'' she says.
''People are always asking me what I would have done differently. Who cares? It's done. Let's move ahead.''
Scripps Howard News Service