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Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Last Updated by WMHT Web Editor on

Preview A year-long ride with Joan Rivers in her 76th year -- at home, in the clubs and on stage.

Watch Monday, July 27, 2015 at 10pm on WMHT TV

JOAN RIVERS - A PIECE OF WORK exposes the private dramas of irreverent, legendary comedian and pop icon Joan Rivers as she fights tooth and nail to keep her American dream alive. A unique look inside America’s obsession with fame and celebrity - Joan’s story is both an outrageously funny journey and a brutally honest look at the ruthless entertainment industry, the trappings of success and the ultimate vulnerability of the first queen of comedy.

With unprecedented, unguarded access, the film captures intimate scenes shot in Joan’s 76th year -- Joan at home, during holidays, performing stand up and acting in a play she wrote, gossiping with her QVC fans, writing jokes and managing her career -- interweaving them with home movies, stand up routines, book recordings, personal photographs and archival footage to create alush visual landscape and cinematic backdrop for the narrative as it unfolds. Filmed as a cinema verite documentary, the film reveals a rare glimpse of the comedic process and the toxic mixture of self-doubt and anger that often fuels it. 

Joan’s is the quintessential story of survival and of determination – a child of Russian immigrants - she is the female pioneer who cut paths and broke boundaries in the otherwise all-male world of comedy, opening the door for other women comedians to follow. Joan is the only woman to have ever held the position of host on a network late-night talk show. Her career has had dramatic highs and lows -- a Tony nomination, an Emmy awarding winning talk show, a husband who committed suicide, a fraudulent business partner and a booming entrepreneurial business – forcing her to constantly reinvent herself. And while she achieved celebrity heights on the Johnny Carson show and in the Vegas comedy world, she remained the anti-celebrity celebrity, always considering herself an outsider.

Joan starts her 76th year launching a play in London about her comedic rise to stardom with the hope of garnering legitimate respect for her life’s work only to return to America with financial concerns. Hustling to find work, Joan stars in two television pilots, promotes her two books, performs stand-up around the country and participates in an NBC primetime show called CELEBRITY APPRENTICE. As an aging performer, Joan is nothing without her stage and her audience. Joan fights to remain in the public eye by pushing herself working 18-hour days, 7 days a week. By the end of the year Joan has reinvented herself. The consummate performer, Joan has already taken precautions in her Will so that she will not be resuscitated if she cannot perform a 60-minute comedy set. 

Joan Rivers has become an icon of her time; someone who will stop at nothing to remain in front of an audience; brash at times and always brutally honest, she engenders strong feelings. An inspiration to some, a plastic surgery joke to others, Joan Rivers’ controversial personas are what continue to fascinate the public and draw audiences to her. The film provides a rare look at Joan Rivers, an iconic performer, stripped of her comedy masks and laying bare the truth of her life and inspiration.