If there were any doubt among the 1,500 people in attendance at the Holland Performing Arts Center Saturday night just how committed Joan Rivers is to her act these days, surely it was put to rest by the image of the 79-year-old show-business legend on the floor with her legs spread in the air.
In short, Rivers gave it all in a raucous performance that felt both exhausting — at one point she tried to scale a grand piano — and deceivingly effortless.
Following a well-received, 30-minute set by Nebraska native Brad Stewart, Rivers took the stage dressed in black with a floor-length, sequined robe and a pair of green feather boas around her neck for St. Patrick's Day.
“Who's drunk and Irish?” she asked, tossing the boas to the front row.
For the next hour and 10 minutes, she delivered a rapid-fire blast of profanity-laced politically incorrectness that had audience members roaring and shaking their heads in equal measure.
“If you're upset at that,” she said after one early joke, “wait until we get to other things.”
Young people, old people, foreigners — even people with disabilities couldn't escape Rivers' wit. She ripped countless celebrities, most of them women, including Goldie Hawn, Heidi Klum, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Adele, Nicole Kidman and the Kardashian sisters, whom she referred to as “Kim, Kourtney and of course Lurch.”
On kids on airplanes: “Where is Casey Anthony when you need her?”
On becoming a grandmother: “I wanted a gay grandson. Who else is going to sit on my knee and say, 'Did you really know Judy Garland?'”
On the election of a new pope: “I was so scared he would pick the wrong name, like Pope Sandusky.”
Her impression of stroke victims Dick Clark and Kirk Douglas in a barely intelligible argument pretty much summed up the night. Nothing was off-limits, and nobody too weak or disenfranchised to be the butt of a joke.
If that sounds cruel, know that the always self-deprecating Rivers reserves some of her harshest critiques for herself.
“I should have been put down nine years ago,” she said during a bit about old people, even joking with the audience about the possibility of her keeling over on stage.
“For the rest of your life, you would be invited to dinner parties. 'You were there?'”
The jokes came at a clip so fast the audience barely had time to stop laughing. And Rivers rarely stopped moving, pacing back and forth and using a stool at center stage only as prop. Oddly, she was backed by a mostly inactive four-person band, which seemed to be there to facilitate a few jokes, including an amazing moment when the comedian, who turns 80 this June, tried to scale a grand piano.
Throughout the evening, Rivers insisted she would get to the act, as though she were talking off the top of her head. It was a brilliantly performed conceit that made her meticulously scripted act feel off-the-cuff, with the crowd as a co-conspirator.
“You gotta keep me on track here,” she said.
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