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An interview with the proudly shameless Joan Rivers

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It doesn't look like Joan Rivers, 76, will be retiring anytime soon. The reigning Celebrity Apprentice has a new show premiering tonight on TVLand - "How Did You Get So Rich?" - and her Comedy Central roast airs Sunday night.

There won't be room for shuffleboard in her schedule for some time.

"I've always worked like a horse with blinders on," says Rivers on the phone from New York. "All I care about is being relevant. I read my papers, go out on the stage. I work every night somewhere."

Chicago is the first place she made a living doing what she loved, and she hasn't looked back since. "I come out of Second City, you know, and that taught me, say what you think. God bless the Chicago audiences. That was the first place I said what I thought, and they said, 'Yeah!'"

Rivers is proudly shameless. On her new reality show, she stalks Rodeo Drive with a microphone and a camera crew, looking for women with multiple shopping bags, or men in Lamborghinis. She approaches a blonde in a salon by saying, "You. Look. Rich."

"You know what I don't get?" she asks. "People say I don't do that, or I'm above that, or I don't play that kind of a club. Excuse me? As Lenny Bruce once said, if they give me a dollar more at the Christian Science Reading Room, I'll be there."

As it turns out, the nouveau riche are a friendly bunch. How did they get so rich? On the show Rivers meets one gentleman who made his fortune by producing "Billy-Bob" fake teeth. As she tours his log mansion, she learns that he spends his considerable disposable income on taxidermy, and that he has a unique way to relieve stress.

"Joan, I'm gonna take this 20-ton 'dozer and I'ma crush that truck," he announces.

"I'm coming with you!" shouts Rivers.

"How Did You Get So Rich?" is surprisingly . . . inspiring. The rags-to-riches entrepreneurs are immensely likable -- we almost want them to have the money. And they sure are enjoying it.

"I think what our show is saying is, anyone can get there. All you need is a good idea, a lot of work and a little luck. It's such a great message."

The messages were decidedly more mixed at the two-hour roast that was taped July 26. "Oh, there were plastic surgery jokes, getting old jokes, QVC jokes," she says. "We had Kathy Griffin as toastmaster, and Brad Garrett, who I adore, and Carl Reiner - and he never comes out."

Griffin made a crack about Rivers sharing the same dermatologist with Michael Jackson. "Unfortunately, he only killed your face," she said.

Tom Arnold scored, too. "Say what you want about Joan Rivers, but she's an icon and a real diva," he said. "Which, by the way, is what they call a [really, really bad word] when she's still sitting in the room."

The special that airs on Sunday will be heavily edited.

Now that we know she can take it, she doesn't hesitate to dish it out. "You know what's nice, truly, the only good thing about getting older?" she says. "What are they going to do to me? It's been done." Last week she made headlines when she told the Television Critics Association, "I think it's brilliant that Leno is at 10 p.m., because America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier."

She has no regrets. To anyone who was shocked - and Leno, of course - she says, "Oh, go f--- yourself. Too bad."

She recently called Johnny Carson a "bastard" and a "nasty man," and can't resist some celebrity targets. "Obviously Brad and Angelina with all those thousands of horrible children," she says. "Ugh. They smell so bad. You never see her with a diaper bag, and that worries me."

Rivers isn't slowing down - in fact, she seems more energetic than ever. "I'm on formeldahyde," she jokes. "That is my drug of choice."

Why retire? "I love what I do," she says. "It's not work. What could be nicer? You think of something funny, and then you say it, and then they give you a check!"

Rivers is open to career possibilities, whether it be a cameo in "Shrek 2" or playing herself on "Nip/Tuck." "There is no grand scheme," she says. "Take everything. Try everything. My philosophy is just to try everything."

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This page contains a single entry by Paige Wiser published on August 5, 2009 4:37 AM.

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