Can she talk?

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Robert Nott The New Mex­i­can

IJoan Rivers: A Piece of Work, por­trait of a comic icon, CCA Cine­math­eque, 3.5 chiles Joan Rivers — who turned 77 this spring — doesn’t have to search for the spot­light any­more. It fol­lows her wher­ever she goes. Case in point: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a de­light­fully in­sight­ful doc­u­men­tary by film­mak­ers Ricki Stern and An­nie Sund­berg that lets Rivers tell her own story.

I grew up with Rivers — in the sense that I saw her on tele­vi­sion as she made a name for her­self on the com­edy cir­cuit in the late 1960s and 1970s, par­tic­u­larly on The Tonight Show Star­ring Johnny Car­son. I found her amus­ing but never be­came a fan, par­tially be­cause she seemed oddly dis­tant as a per­former — some­one who worked over­time to keep the mask of com­edy on.

But I grew to like and ad­mire Rivers as I watched this doc­u­men­tary about a woman who in­sists that she is an ac­tress play­ing the part of a come­di­enne. “Com­edy — never!” she ex­plains as she re­calls her youth­ful de­sire to be taken se­ri­ously as a stage ac­tress. She re­mem­bers an early the­ater­go­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing Paul Robe­son play Othello when she was just 6 years old and think­ing, This is where I be­long.

The film­mak­ers and their cam­era fol­low Rivers as her 75th birth­day ap­proaches. She has a new play in the works as we first en­counter her, a one-woman au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal show called

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