BOTTOM LINE: Oh no she didn't...
Comedy legend Joan Rivers is working out some new material during a limited-all-proceeds-go-to-charity-engagement at the Cutting Room, and I am happy to report that her acid tounge, razor sharp wit, and perpetually reshaped face all remain firmly, brilliantly and hilariously intact.
Her set lasts (sadly, only) about an hour and mixes some bits that still need to be fine tuned with some bits that absolutely do not. But Miss Rivers continually scores comic gold throughout the evening every time she abandons the planned stuff and just riffs with the audience, a surprisingly diverse and overtly adoring crowd. It is always a thrill to see a comic, especially one as seasoned as Rivers, who is able to take risks, and really be in the moment, tailoring her comedy to what is happening in the room. It infuses everything with a sense of urgency and immediacy imperative in comedy (good comedy, anyway). And there is something particularly thrilling about watching Rivers, a veteran performer by any standard, work a room into a frenzy. As is the case with any artist and her chosen discipline, its not the ability to do it that makes you a legend, its the ability to do it brilliantly and to make it look effortless that does. It is abundantly clear which category into which Rivers falls well before she hits center stage and grabs the mike from its stand.
Ultimately, however, I think comedy has to be dangerous if it is going to be truly and legitimately funny. If the comics aren't going to say the things most people think but wouldn't dare articulate, then who will? Watching Rivers "go there," (and by "there" I mean places you don't expect most seventy-plus-year-olds to go) reminds you that if you play it safe in comedy, it's worse than boring, its unfunny. Because if you don't have at least one, "Oh no she didn't" moment, then what's the point? I was laughing so hard that I lost count of my "Oh no she didn't" moments, but suffice it to say she had many. Oh yes she did.
(Remaining shows include Wednesday, Nov. 19th at 7:30pm, Wednesday, Dec. 10th at 8pm and Friday, Dec. 19th at 7:30pm. The Cutting Room is located at 19 West 24th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Tickets are $30 and a proceeds are donated to God's Love We Deliver and Guide Dogs for the Blind. For tickets click here or call 212.352.3101.)