Comedians: Hot Potato

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Joan Rivers claims that she is now only a thin blonde disaster area, where once she was a fat blonde disaster area. In high school, she says, "I got to be chairman of the decorating committee for the prom. We decided to hold it at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in the Grand Ballroom. I made it look just like a gymnasium. Then what happens? I was the only girl not asked to the prom. My father is a very sensitive, perceptive person, so he said, 'Look, Lump, we'll get your cousin to take you.' My cousin! Think of the humiliation! And my cousin, she didn't want to take me either."

This is the flavor of the pan-Freud potatoes that Comedienne Rivers was dispensing last week at the Manhattan nightclub Downstairs at the Upstairs. She is very funny potatoes indeed, and she delivers with plenty of peeling. She tells about the time she was playing Omaha. "I was staying in a hotel where there was a bake-off contest. All the women drove up in their tractors. Bert Parks was there. He sang the bake-off song. The judges consisted of Kate Smith." Or the time in England that she saw the Queen Mother. "She's so cute. I saw her walking in front of Clarence House in her miniskirt. She's looking, you know. After all, she's a widow, the kids are married now. They've all moved away. Meg, not far enough. Well, it's the old story: kings she wants don't want her. A king her age wants a younger queen. I told her to go to Miami. I said, 'Wear your crown, go sit on the beach, and believe me, you'll meet.' "

Glue Poisoning. In format, Joan Rivers owes much to the likes of Shelley Berman and Woody Allen, but her style and material, to say nothing of her femininity, make her something special. Snapping out her lines, bobbing and weaving around the stage like a pug in the last throes of brain damage, she is an unindexed handbook on how to be neurotic about practically everything.

Take wigs. The ordinary woman puts a wig on her head and that's that. Joan's wig gets run over by a car—and then the driver gives her $10 and his sympathy for having killed her dog. Or airplanes. "There's this guy standing next to me, and he's saying such things as 'If God wanted man to fly, he'd have given him wings.' And it's our pilot." Or trading stamps. It seems a girl friend saved 1,345 books of stamps toward an African safari. When she licked the last one, she got sick and died of glue poisoning. Or sex. "My husband is English, you see. He's terribly conservative. He wears pajamas with a vest. I give him a hug and a kiss and he says, 'Not here, not here.' Yesterday I started to give him a hug and a kiss and he said, 'Not here, not here,' and I started to cry because we were in bed."

"Get Her Off." Daughter of a Larchmont, N.Y., doctor ("He calls himself an internist, which is really a G.P., but he charges a little more"), Joan made her debut in 1960 in a Boston nightclub. She was billed as "Pepper January, Comedy and Spice." She was fired the first night.

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