“Comedy is a young person’s game” goes the saying, and it’s hard not to cringe at the list of legendary standup comics and comic actors who’ve lost all or most of their funny power as the decades have passed: Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and on and on. Even a so-called “comedian’s comedian” like the late George Carlin came across as a preachy scold in the late stages of his career.
I’d have to include Joan Rivers on this list, who’s appearing at Bass Hall 7pm tomorrow night (Nov 2). At 78, her voice in performance is weary and humorless, her material too often scattershot and mean-spirited, and if you’ve seen the 2010 doc A Piece of Work, you’ll know she views her live act less as art or craft than as dates to be filled in a work schedule.
But I also have to tip my hat to the famously persistent Ms. Rivers — she seems more au courant than ever. The rampant plastic surgery, the obsessive tearing down of celebrities, the worship of fashion and money: This is Joan Rivers’ America, and the rest of us are just gawkers in it. To be fair, we probably need her: After the debacle of Kim Kardashian’s $17 million wedding and quickie divorce, a vengeful shredding by Rivers is just what Kardashian deserves.