"Can we tawk?"
Joan Rivers' signature line, inflected with her New York accent, says a lot about her comedy: She's confessional, daringly open about her personal life and scathingly honest.
"Can we talk?" is her way of telling her audience: It's just you and me here; we're in this together, and I'll say anything. Which may be the key to her long-running success.
Born Joan Molinsky in 1933, she grew up in Brooklyn. One of her first stage roles was during the late 1950s in a play opposite Barbra Streisand.
Rivers gained national attention on "The Tonight Show," appearing first with Jack Paar in the '60s, then becoming a regular guest host for Johnny Carson. When Rivers launched a late-night show for the Fox network in 1986, Carson became furious and ended their friendship.
Rivers' husband, Edgar Rosenberg, produced Rivers' late-night show, but when Fox fired him, Rivers quit. A few months later, in 1987, Rosenberg committed suicide.
Last year, a documentary titled "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival and received rave reviews.
Rivers is now filming the second season of a reality show with her daughter called "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" on the WEtv network. One episode features Joan barging into the bathroom where Melissa is taking a shower to try to convince her to pose nude for a magazine.
Rivers spoke to the Press Democrat while en route to an appearance near Niagara Falls. She performs Friday at the Uptown Theatre in Napa.
Q. I want to start with "Joan & Melissa." That was the most shocking shower scene since "Psycho." Did Melissa know that was coming?