Joan Rivers can kvetch with the best of ’em.
The hardest working woman in comedy is back with a book full of rants, the kind connecting her borscht belt roots with a warped appreciation of our Snooki-fied pop culture.
“I Hate Everyone … Starting with Me,” stockpiles a list of grievances that must have taken a lifetime to compile.
Rivers, who turns 79 this week, is a comedy institution. She smashed the comedy glass ceiling, subbed for Johnny Carson, starred in feature films and worked the grueling stand-up circuit for decades. Anyone who saw the 2010 documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” understands why she refuses to rest on her legendary laurels.
She can still slap us across the face with stinging one-liners, and her humor is so politically incorrect you have to re-read a few passages to make sure she wrote what you think she did. But the book is best digested in small portions. There’s no overriding theme to tie the material together, no sense of purpose beyond emptying out her overstuffed rant file in book form.
The comedienne, known by many for her aggressive plastic surgery, wants to play on the same field as fellow ranters like Dennis Miller, Adam Carolla and the late George Carlin. She’s already opened up about her personal life in tomes like “Bouncing Back.” Here, she teases about her personal connections to the material, but it’s usually merely a set up for the next gag. She feels no compunction to share anything new about her flaws and foibles.
“I Hate Everyone” lets her tee off on flying, hiking, Hollywood fundraisers and too many other topics to mention. She riffs on whether Stephen Hawking’s marriage hit the rocks after he “rolled off” with another woman, and describes fearing being hit by Kirstie Alley’s “paw” for mocking the former “Cheers” actress.
Some of the gags are so obvious they’re not worth putting on paper. Others are sublimely silly.
“I hate displays of public prayer. Frankly, I find praying mantises pushy and offensive …”
And a few pick on sacred cows other comics won’t touch:
“I hate the Tony Awards show … I can’t get booked anywhere that night because every gay man in the world is at the fucking Tonys.”
Rivers is old enough to endure any fallout from impolite gags, and it’s clear she’d be the last person to apologize should any group take offense.
“I Hate Everyone” takes a few minor swats at the right, a poke at Sarah Palin, a jab at Glenn Beck. Yet Rivers keeps political matters mostly on the sidelines, one of the rare subjects not torn asunder by her wit.
Rivers has nothing left to prove as a performer, and “I Hate Everyone” hardly heralds her career’s crowning achievement. But for anyone eager to spend those last few minutes before bedtime processing unabashedly uncivil rants, the book will surely enhance those final, pre-sleep moments.