Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comedy is often irreverent, but serves a higher purpose

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of seeing one of my comedy idols perform at Casino New Brunswick.

I've been watching Joan Rivers on television all my life. I get her shtick. She likes to shock, but beneath that tough exterior lies a heart of gold in a woman who does much charity work, especially in the areas of AIDS and suicide prevention. Her career has been built on saying what people are really thinking but are too afraid to say.

I sat in the front row on Saturday night for more than an hour in awe of her. Being a real celebrity hound, I couldn't believe I was actually seeing her in person. She was crude, vile, disgusting, irreverent, shocking and blunt - and I laughed at every word, even when it was just wrong. After all, if you're going to see her perform, you have to expect to hear a comedienne who pushes the envelope.

She made fun of Cher, her transgender son Chaz, Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa and even the Virgin Mary, who she insists would have found a room at the inn 2,000 and a handful years ago had Rivers been around to give her some much-needed fashion advice. "You're the mother of God. You should look the part!"

At 77, she spent more than an hour running from one end of the stage to the other in stiletto heels and never missing a beat. She did have cue cards taped to the stage, though - not that I fault her for that. I can't imagine how anyone could rant for an entire hour like her without a few friendly reminders on stage in front of them.

At the end of the show, I was exhausted for her, considering that she never stopped or took a break during the entire performance. Her voice remained strong. She never slowed down. Her caustic onstage act turned sincere at the end when she gratefully thanked the audience for coming out to see her. She always wanted to perform and was honoured that we had paid to see her.

There's one thing about Joan Rivers and many other comediennes. Their acts are just that - acts. They don't reflect the true personality of the person. Most are involved in charity works that reflect things that are important to them in their hearts. And with Rivers, nothing is sacred. Everyone's a target - even her charities.

In her act, she even jokes about suicide, despite the fact that her husband Edgar Rosenberg took his own life via an overdose of Valium and alcohol on Aug. 14, 1987. He was alone in a hotel room in Philadelphia and was found by security guards.

Rivers and her daughter Melissa were understandably devastated. Her jokes about the topic aren't meant as a sign of disrespect - they're more of a sign of coping. A songwriter would write a song - like Eric Clapton did when he co-wrote "Tears in Heaven" along with Will Jennings after his four-year-old son Conor died after falling 53 storeys (yes, 53) out of an apartment window in 1991.

Authors who suffer personal loss write books, such as famous romance writer Danielle Steel, whose son Nicholas Traina committed suicide in 1997. Following his death, she wrote a book about him called "His Bright Light." And how many statues have been sculpted as beautiful tributes to those who have left us?

The fact is that society is more apt to accept a piece of art, a song or a book as a fitting tribute to their loved ones. Rivers, however, is a comedienne. It's just who she is. And making jokes is her way of paying tribute. In the end, doesn't a little bit of laughter help dry the tears - even if the laughter is a bit (or a lot) on the irreverent side?

I've heard people criticize her for pushing the envelope. "She shouldn't make jokes about her husband's suicide," they would admonish. "She shouldn't make jokes about AIDS because it's caused such devastation to a generation of humanity."

Well, to be blunt, she's likely done more to raise money for those suffering from AIDS than all of her critics put together through her charity God's Love We Deliver, whose mission "is to improve the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. We prepare and deliver nutritious, high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness, are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves."

Don't let her jokes and irreverence lull you into thinking she's a dim bulb. In fact, she's one smart cookie, having won Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice competition in 2009. You've probably also seen her as a regular guest on The Shopping Channel selling her wide array of affordable and stylish costume jewellery - all of which she designs herself.

Having gone through tough financial times in the mid-1990s, Rivers makes no apologies for the fact that she still works like a dog at 77. I've heard her say often on television that she'll go wherever they'll pay her because she never wants to experience that feeling again.

For her, comedy is therapy - both psychological and financial. We can laugh at her irreverence because we know she's not serious. We don't mind paying to see her because she works hard for the money she earns and is extremely generous to charitable causes. What a pleasure to have seen her in action. Thanks for the laughs, Joan.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Hump Day column...

... is about attending a performance by one of my comedy idols over the weekend. I never thought I'd ever get a chance to see Joan Rivers live, but to my great thrill she booked a date to perform here in Moncton at Casino New Brunswick last Saturday, November 13.

I laughed the entire time, but can understand why some people wince at her irreverent jokes. With that said, I get her... jokes are her therapy. Her jokes about AIDS turn heads, especially when you realize she's passionate about raising money for the disease. Her jokes about suicide make you wonder, especially when you consider that her beloved husband Edgar Rosenberg took his own life.

Brokenhearted songwriters write songs. Brokenhearted authors write books. Brokenhearted artists create art.

Brokenhearted comedians tell jokes.

Read all about it in the editorial section of today's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted online here tomorrow.

Remember... if it's Wednesday, it's Hump Day!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Glee guest star Darren Criss poised to break show sales record with Teenage Dream

One of the most popular TV shows on air these days is Glee, having spawned many hit singles and quotables quotes. Last week's episode, Never Been Kissed, featured guest star Darren Criss singing a cover of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. Criss' character Blaine is rumoured to be a possible love interest for Kurt, played by Chris Colfer.

The song sold like hotcakes during its first day on iTunes, breaking the show's first-day iTunes sales record. The song is expected to overtake the cast's cover of Journey's Don't Stop Believin' as the show's most popular single to date.

Criss' version is very catchy, to say the least, so much so that it's been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube in less than a week!

Originally scheduled to appear in only a few episodes, the guest actor's sudden huge popularity with viewers is pretty much a guarantee that he'll be a regular. Criss also sings a duet (Baby It's Cold Outside) with Colfer on Glee's Christmas album to be released on Tuesday, November 16.