Joan Rivers

What becomes a semi-legend most?

What becomes a semi-legend most?

The flight back from Melbourne was enjoyable enough.

After a brief lie down at home on arrival, I headed off to the Enmore Theatre where Colin and I had planned to see Joan Rivers perform live.

It must be twenty five years or so since I bought her wonderful album – I bought it on vinyl as was the custom at the time – “What becomes a semi-legend most”? I must have played it a hundred times or more. She was coarse, outrageous, but you knew behind all that bravado she had a heart and there was a real person.

“What do you think she’s like behind all that schtick?”. I asked Colin. “Does she clean her own toilets, you mean?” he asked. I suspect she does, but you never know.

The audience was almost exclusively gay men of a certain age. I suspect almost everyone of us had bought that same record, or at least had listened to it once with friends.

We all knew about Helen Keller. We knew about Anne Frank. We knew she would make fun of Michael Jackson and Madonna.

There were a couple of younger guys in front of us we noticed didn’t get some of the cultural references. And indeed, there were some New York Jewish references which also went over our heads.

But mostly, we received what we expected we might.

What I guess we didn’t expect was the fresh take on a lot of this material. There was a joke about how she had been to Anne Frank’s apartment and thought it was great. “She should live in New York and have such an apartment”, she joked. She also joked about MIchael Jackson’s comeback and the Victorian bushfires.

What I guess we also didn’t expect was her sprightliness at seventy five. Some of us were expecting she would do a short act, and probably mostly seated. But she walked up and down the stage constantly, moved furniture and pot plants, got up and down, and the act went for about an hour at least.

“I’ve got to finish now”, she said, “because there’s another show in twenty minutes”.

As we walked outside, we struggled to make our way through the impatient next crowd all looking at us for a sense of how the show went. I think for a lot of people it was a case of she the show before she dies. But I didn’t get any sense from the show she was going anywhere soon.

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