"Don’t come if you’re expecting Donny and Marie," Joan Rivers, performing Friday at the Paramount Theater, replied when I asked her if she had advice for Austin audiences.
"Don’t come if you think it’s going to be a walk down memory lane. Don’t come if you think this is going to be warm and fuzzy. It ain’t," she says, laughing.
Can I let you in on a little secret? For all her celebrity taunts, insult humor and self-deprecation, I think Rivers is a little warm and fuzzy. The legendary comic completely charmed me in the few minutes I shared with her on the phone from her home in New York City where, at 80, she still heads to the 100-seat West Bank Cafe to hammer out new material before going on the road.
On the road. At 80.
"I just go in and ad-lib and break in stuff. It’s no-holds barred," Rivers says. "We’re all in it together."
She flies back and forth to Los Angeles weekly to tape her E! Network show "Fashion Police," staying with daughter Melissa and doting on grandson Cooper. She has a web series called "In Bed With Joan" and is launching another, "Drunken Celebrity Phone Calls."
She has mad Twitter skills and is getting into Vines, those 6-second movies that relentlessly loop on smart phones and other Internet appliances.
"You have like 6 seconds to do a joke. That’s so much fun," she gushes.
I’ll bet your grandmother’s not making Vines.
Seriously — is Joan Rivers the hardest working person in show business?
"I’m the happiest working person in show business," she says. "Anyone who (complains), ‘Oh, I had to do a matinee and an evening performance,’ I go, ‘Are you lucky! You got to do it twice today, you idiot.’"
The modern, connected world seems much smaller than the one in which Rivers began her comedy career, and she says the fact that audiences share a common, sort of homogenized knowledge of pop culture events makes her job easier.
"When I started out in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, you would go to Texas, for example, and they wouldn’t know what you were talking about with the Twin Towers or whatever. You would change your act for where you were going, in a way," she explains. "Now, it’s universal. I just came back from England — England, and everybody’s talking about the same things."
And news of those things comes faster now.
"It’s almost too fast," Rivers says. "I mean, my God, we all knew that Solange kicked Jay-Z before that elevator hit the ground floor."
You can expect to hear about that surveillance tape dust-up when Rivers takes the Paramount stage. Alec Baldwin’s on her radar, too, as well as Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
"That guy is an (expletive) but he deserves what he gets, because look at the girlfriend," she says. "What did you think was going to happen you dumb (expletive)?"
In spite of the acid tongue, Rivers is one of those increasingly rare celebrities who remains approachable. Her fans have grown up with her, she says, so they feel as if they’re greeting an old family friend.
"That’s lovely," she says.
Rivers understands their excitement because she is a fan, too.
"And I will approach," she says, tacking a long laugh onto her unmistakably raspy voice. "I saw Uma Thurman in the LAX airport. I went crazy. Wow-wow-wow! All in black leather and zippers and big boots. She looked great!"