Not a review of Joan Rivers

This is not — I repeat — not a review of The Joan Rivers Theatre Project at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre. Rivers and her crew are in town for a few weeks to workshop a new play, and reviews are not allowed.

The show had its unofficial opening Wednesday, and I will say this about the experience: I haven’t laughed so hard or so well in a long time.

I’m not going to talk about the show’s problems (at nearly two intermissionless hours, it’s about 20 minutes too long, the supporting characters are straight out of sitcom land, etc.) because that’s the whole point of performing in San Francisco — to do some major work on a brand-new piece of work.

But I am going to say that Rivers is extraordinary. At 74, she doesn’t need to be getting a new play on its feet, let alone a play she co-wrote (with Doug Bernstein and Denis Markell) and stars in. The admirable thing here is that Rivers wants to create a real play — with characters and a story arc — and not just do her usual stand-up routine.

To be sure, she gives her fans what they want. There’s an awful lot of stand-up material in here (some old, some new) when Rivers breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience. Rivers’ comedy has only gotten rougher and raunchier and funnier over the years. You really ought to hear her talk about aging and sex over 60. Unbelievably funny stuff. And yes, she talks about her plastic surgery (she estimates she has spent upwards of $150,000 on procedures), and she talks frankly about ageism in show business.

There’s a spirit to this show — of survival, of finding your bliss, of proving the world wrong — that goes beyond comedy, and as the show develops, this aspect is certain to become as powerful as the jokes.

Rivers and director Mark Rucker are doing an interesting thing during the San Francisco run. They’re inviting the audience to stay after the show and offer feedback directly to Rivers about what worked and what didn’t in the show. At Wednesday’s show, the audience was pretty evenly divided about whether or not they thought the show should be solo or with the other actors. Some felt Rivers’ story was strong enough to stand on its own, while others appreciated the interaction with other people (which differentiates the show from other celeb tell-alls).

Rivers deserves a big, fat hit at this point in her storied career. Enough with the ups and downs. Time for audiences to start celebrating her comic genius and the fact that she’s every bit as funny as she was when she started more than 40 years ago.

For information about The Joan Rivers Theatre Project, which runs through Sept. 2, visit

If you’re not reading Rivers’ daily blog, you should be. She writes a lot about the development of her play: Joan Rivers Blog.

`Q’ BLOGGERS: Nicky & Rod

As our week of Avenue Q guest blogging comes to a close, we get not one but TWO bloggers today. Again, many thanks to the touring Q company for playing along and to the kind folks at SHN/Best of Broadway for setting the guest bloggers in motion.

First up is Nicky, an easy-going, well-intentioned dude who is perfectly OK about his roommate, Rod, being a formerly closeted gay Republican.

“Hey there, Nicky here. I’m having a nice time here in San Francisco. I’m crashing in Rod’s hotel room. We’re staying in this cool place that has a murphy bed, so that’s a nice change from the couch that I’m used to. I’m on a budget so I’ve taken to going shopping with Rod. I carry his shopping bags for a small fee, namely room and board. After spending almost all our time in the Castro, I’m beginning to wonder if San Francisco has anything else to offer other than leather and rainbow flags. Say, if I reach the end of a rainbow flag, do I find a pot of gold? Does it belong to a gay leprechaun? Just curious.

Anyway, I think Rod’s getting a little frustrated with me hanging around him all the time, all the guys he tries to cruise seem to think that we’re together so he’s coming up empty handed, so to speak. I give him another day, then maybe he’ll send me off with an allowance and I can check some stuff out. I could always go to the Haight and ask for change. I want to see the herd of buffalo in Golden Gate Park and check out the Penny Arcade near where the seals hang out on the rocks. I also want to ride one of the famous Cable Cars here. So much to do and so little time.

Peace and Love, Nicky”

Puppeteer extraordinaire Christian Anderson brings Nicky to life on the Avenue Q tour.

Now here’s a missive from Nicky’s roommate, Rod, who once claimed he had a girlfriend in Canada (“Her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver, she cooks like my mother and sucks like a …”)

“When I first found out that we were going to San Francisco, I was so thrilled! I signed up for the “John Stamos Full House Tour,” in which Uncle Jesse himself leads a walking tour through the entire opening credit sequence of “Full House.” It was absolutely beautiful, although Mr. Stamos was walking right in front of me…in jeans…so I missed a lot of the sights…because I was…nevermind.”

The delightful Robert McClure is the voice and animating force behind Rod (not to mention leading man Princeton) on the Avenue Q tour.

For information about Avenue Q, visit