Published Aug 12, 2016Joan Rivers was 78-years-old when she released her last comedy special, aptly titled Don't Start With Me. Love her or not, her vibrancy, pithiness and seemingly effortless gumption at her age is a marvel.
In conventional terms, Joan Rivers is horrifying. The comments she makes about enormous swaths of people are at times unspeakable. Some might think shocking audiences is a young comic's game, but there are few comics out there as brash as Rivers. Most of her jokes are in awful taste, too crass for those with even the strongest of stomachs. But the delivery is spectacular. Perhaps it's because many of us dream of the happy day when we're old and set in our ways, no longer giving a shit what anybody else thinks. Nobody is as indifferent to how her jokes are taken as Rivers.
After a few brilliant stage prop antics, Joan begins with a warning to her audience — that her jokes are just jokes and anyone who takes offense can "get the fuck out." She proceeds maliciously, hilariously and outrageously offensively, to go through a list of all the kinds of people who can "get the fuck out." This bit, negating a few tangents, takes up the bulk of her special. The thin and the overweight, Asian people, people who like children and others all come under the hammer. It's often funny, almost always inexcusable and sometimes just downright wrong. However, Joan's delivery is something to behold. It's a lifetime of hard work and raw talent in the making. She may not be for everyone, and some of her jokes are downright nasty, but she nails it every goddamn time.
Often described as fearless, a trouble maker and staunchly unapologetic, she proceeds to poke fun at "her good friend" Michael J Fox and Parkinson's disease. Rivers has a mainline to the heart of bad taste but if you can stomach it you might have a good laugh. One of her best bits stems from her gratefulness for acting in commercials and the money that goes with them. She combines the music of Sarah Mclaughlan's "Angel" with morbid animal cruelty for the sake of making a little money off of ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) commercials.
All in all, Joan Rivers' Don't Start With Me is impressive, at times very funny, and also riddled with racist, sexist and ablest remarks. Those who can reconcile those things in order to appreciate the undeniable amount of talent and daring she did have, will enjoy the hell out of it. Those who can't will have no shortage of things to gawk at and blog about. So in the end, perhaps it's a win-win.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.