Ahead of her June 12 performance to benefit Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey, the local chapter of a charity founded in memory of the comedian Gilda Radner to help those struggling with cancer, cancer survivors, and their families, Rivers spoke with The Jewish Standard about her love for Israel, her daughter and her grandson, and the reasons she uses her talent to do good.
Jewish Standard: Lots of us admire your relationship with your daughter Melissa. Even when you have your differences, your strong connection and your love for each other shines through. What is it about your daughter that gives you the most nachas?
|Charles William Bush|
Joan Rivers: I guess being able to see that my daughter is living a good life, that she has brains and is a terrific mom and is able to cope with adversity – all of that, for a parent, is important.
J.S.: It’s beautiful that you are doing this for Gilda’s Club. I also remember that when you were on “Celebrity Apprentice,” you chose the charity God’s Love We Deliver to receive your winnings. You have uplifted so many people with your comedy. Did you have the idea, when you were starting out, that you wanted to make the world a better place? Like in the sense of the Jewish value of tikkun olam?
J.R.: No of course not, of course not…. But the nice thing is you can give back. It’s about karma. When you are able to help other people that’s just a great moment. I loved working on “Apprentice” because it brought a great charity, God’s Love We Deliver, to the forefront. The same with Gilda’s Club.
My daughter does wonderful work for the Bogart [Pediatric Cancer Research Program] that [funds] cancer research and also helps the family members of children stricken with cancer. Gilda’s Club also helps people cope and get through it, not only the child or adult who is sick but also the rest of the family. If the brother is dying of cancer everyone focuses on the [ill] child and this charity [also] takes care of the other children…. That’s very important psychologically. It’s also nice to be involved because I knew Gilda a little bit-we met on the Carson show.
J.S.: I remember back in the ’80’s, you had the “Find Joan a Hubby” contest in which you were looking for a husband. Didn’t you meet someone through that?
J.R.: Yes, a Jewish doctor.
J.S.: From the South, right?
J.R.: From Nashville, Tenn.
J.S.: Are you looking to meet someone now and would he have to be Jewish?
J.R.: I just think the more you have in common the easier it is. It isn’t essential you should marry a Jew.
J.S.: How do you meet men?
J.R.: At my age, I read the obituaries.
J.S.: Who do you think is the sexiest man in entertainment today?
J.R.: I think George Clooney is an elegant, charming man.
J.S.: What do you think of your friend Donald Trump’s foray into politics?
J.R.: I think Trump should have gone further. I was disappointed when he stopped. Donald is smart and a businessman. He can’t get bullied. He might not have been the best president but he would have been strong, not afraid to speak out, and not afraid to represent us as still one of the great powers. We could use a little more of that. We are walking around now like a second-rate power. Poor us, scared to say this to this one and that to that one. This whole thing with Israel is terrifying – they surrounded Israel – soldiers shot  people. Guess what? They were [being mobbed by] thousands.
J.S.: It is wonderful that you stand up for Israel’s right to self-defense. So few celebrities, including Jewish ones, do. Who do you like for president?
J.R.: We’ll see. Where they stand on Israel is my first concern [as a voter].
J.S.: This is a question my mom asked me to ask you. If you had not gone into show business, where do you think you’d be? And if you could do it all again, would you?
J.R.: I’d do it all again in a second. I love the business and I love what I do. If I hadn’t gone into to show business I would’ve been a dentist’s wife and miserable and would probably be doing decorations at a Hadassah luncheon … and I would not have been liked in that group.
J.S.: Another Jewish question. Do you think you have mazel?
J.R.: Oh, I think I’m the luckiest woman going. We are healthy and happy – my daughter is fine and my grandson is happy. I have no complaints on anything. We all have problems in life and we’ve all gone through our share. Enjoy the good times when you have it – is your toilet flushing? Are you wearing shoes? [Then] stop complaining you gained three pounds. You’re ahead of the game.
Joan Rivers’ “Laugh Out Loud” event to benefit Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey will take place Sunday, June 12, at 7 p.m. at the Bergen Academies, 200 Hackensack Ave., in Hackensack. To purchase tickets ($39-$100), visit www.showclix.com or call 1-888-718-4253. For more information about Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey visit www.gildasclubnnj.org.