‘Celebrating Joan: a Tribute to Joan Rivers’
Wednesday, June 22
2700 F St., N.W.
Joan Rivers’ legacy lives on through her daughter Melissa, 48, who has devoted much of her time to making sure Joan’s talent for comedy is always present in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.
The New York Times bestselling author will host “Celebrating Joan: a Tribute to Joan Rivers,” at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday, June 22 at 7 p.m. Presenters and performers scheduled to appear include Louie Anderson, Dick Cavett, Rachel Bloom, Kelly Osbourne, Aubrey Plaza, Bob Saget, Jordin Sparks and Jessica Williams. There will also be special video messages from Andy Cohen, Barry Manilow, Lily Tomlin and John Waters. The tribute is part of the Kennedy Center’s District of Comedy Festival, which runs June 22-25.
Melissa spoke with the Blade about the backstage operations of “Fashion Police,” the best piece of advice her mother gave her and her plans for Joan’s filing cabinet joke catalogue.
WASHINGTON BLADE: You’re doing a tribute to your mother at the Kennedy Center. Why did you decide to have the event in D.C. instead of somewhere like New York or Los Angeles?
MELISSA RIVERS: Well it’s part of the Kennedy Center Comedy Festival. And they came to me and asked if I’d be interested and I said yes. Everyone’s waiting for there to be some great story and unfortunately it’s pretty basic.
BLADE: Your mother really paved the way for female comedians. When you’re hosting, do you ever feel any pressure to bring the laughs like she did or do you try to let your performance style have its own niche?
RIVERS: Oh, I absolutely try to have my own style. My mother was a once-in-a-lifetime performer. No one could ever do what she did. You gotta be yourself and true to yourself. Anyone who would try, that would be a foolish endeavor.
BLADE: Presenters and performers at the tribute include people like Kelly Osbourne, Bob Saget and Jordin Sparks. How was the group curated?
RIVERS: A lot by availability. And also by people that she knew and touched and inspired and that could bring a different part of her life and work to the table.
BLADE: A while ago you were in talks with some institutions like the Smithsonian to donate Joan’s filing cabinet catalogue of jokes. Are there any updates on that?
RIVERS: The only update is that the whole thing gives me a whole lot of anxiety. I still keep having a vision of that last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where they do the long tracking pullback and the ark is being put into a warehouse with a lot of other important cabinets and crates. That anxiety of, “That’s where it’s going to end up.” I’m still trying to figure that one out. That one is all on me.
BLADE: Joan was obviously considered a gay icon and supporter of the LGBT community. What are your thoughts on the recent tragedy in Orlando?
RIVERS: Just awful. Heartbreaking. Horrendous. There aren’t enough words to describe the hideousness of the tragedy.
BLADE: During “Fashion Police,” where would you and your mother watch the Golden Globes or the Oscars following the red carpet?
RIVERS: We would usually run right back up to whatever hotel suite we got ready in. Because remember we had to turn the show to tape the next morning to be on air the next night, because “Fashion Police” would air the next evening. So it was really a marathon day for us.
BLADE: Since your mother’s passing, has there been any dress or outfit a celebrity has worn that you think she would have loved?
RIVERS: Oh God, there have been so many. “Love” being a very subjective word.
BLADE: What was the best piece of advice that your mother gave you that you’ve passed along to your son?
RIVERS: The same advice really works for both good and bad and I really do try to keep it in mind all the time, which is, “this too shall pass.” Meaning in bad times just remember this too shall pass but in good times remember that, unfortunately, this too shall pass and be appreciative of the good times.
BLADE: Shortly before her death, Joan walked out of a CNN interview. Had she gotten less willing to “suffer fools” overall as she got older?
RIVERS: That interview was like three years ago. I can barely remember what I did yesterday.
BLADE: What do you want people to take away from this tribute?
RIVERS: I just want them to come and celebrate, have fun and laugh. You know we all have to remember it’s OK to laugh.