Who's In It: Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Don Rickles
The Basics: Workaholic comedian Joan Rivers, along with other women like Totie Fields, Moms Mabley and LaWanda Page, paved the way for today's female comics. But does she care about that? No. She wants to work and keep on living in the lavishly appointed Manhattan apartment she inhabits. That's the present-day stuff. The vintage archival material is where you realize how bold and unafraid she's always been. That's not hyperbole either; the woman told abortion jokes on The Mike Douglas Show back in the '70s. Most people who aren't named Sarah Silverman don't do that kind of material today.
What's The Deal: In addition to still being cruelly funny after all these years, even when she's her own target--cue the TV movie about her husband's suicide in which she and daughter Melissa actually played themselves--the best thing about this documentary is that it's a how-to guide to having any kind of career. The lady refuses to take "no" for an answer. She just keeps on going, hunting down jobs, selling that jewelry, hosting dumb shows about tacky rich people (it's called How'd You Get So Rich? and it's on some cable channel right now) and doing literally whatever it takes to keep herself in the entertainment world. By her age--77--most people have retired from or allowed themselves to be pushed out of show business. But it's like she takes personal pleasure in continuing to be a thorn in the side of the establishment that's never really liked her. You have to respect that kind of cranky tenacity.
Number Of Times She Badmouths Kathy Griffin For Muscling In On Her Territory: Four. And it would feel uncomfortable if it weren't for the fact that Griffin is in the doc worshipping the ground Rivers walks on and if it weren't already common knowledge that they're friends. You learn stuff from watching My Life on the D-List.
Brace Yourself For: Her current standup act, where she mercilessly eviscerates hecklers who dare to teach her about the nature of comedy and calls her own daughter that "C" word for refusing to pose fully nude for Playboy. You could rightly call that not softening with age. And it must make the Vegas crowds who show up to see her with Don Rickles lose their breath. After a lifetime of only ever watching her on profanity-unfriendly network television, it was shocking enough to make me think about catching her live sometime before she turns 80, which will probably be the moment where her act gets really filthy.
Not Mentioned: The crazily bad movie Rivers directed in the late '70s called Rabbit Test. It starred Billy Crystal as the world's first pregnant man. I saw it when I was a kid and remember being thoroughly confused. Sadly, it's not on DVD.