The two had each other’s backs on shows such as “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Celebrity Family Feud,” and we all know how efficiently they can take apart red-carpet faux pas on “Fashion Police.” But “Joan and Melissa” is new territory for the duo.
Cameras follow the action as outrageous, opinionated Joan decides to move from her swanky digs in New York City to Los Angeles to be closer to Melissa and her grandson Cooper.
How much closer? Inside Melissa’s house.
Did we also mention that Melissa shares that house with her live-in boyfriend, a couple of friends, an assistant and a bombshell of a Swedish nanny named Dominica?
Actual Joan quote from the show: “There’s a hooker watering the plants.”
Naturally, the queen of comedy and the queen of the roost have different ideas about the living situation and individual boundaries, and the show quickly becomes a war of wills between the two. Will assertive, outspoken Joan and independent Melissa find a happy balance or just call the whole thing off? We don’t know yet, but it’s fun watching the fireworks as they try.
Through the miracle of 1960s conference-call technology, we were able to get both Joan and Melissa on the phone at the same time to talk about the challenges in doing the show and what good came out of it.
PGN: First off, congratulations on the new show.
Joan Rivers: Thank you. The ratings were great. It’s the highest number they’ve ever got in that time slot. It’s all terrific so we’re thrilled.
PGN: In your minds, was doing this show any different than the other TV shows you have done together?
Melissa Rivers: Oh, yes. First of all, they were in my house. Second of all, my mother was in my house.
JR: Third of all, it’s not scripted. Unlike a lot of reality TV, that “Oh, what a surprise they walked in on us having sex,” we really said from the beginning if we’re going to do it, let’s not do a scripted show. And I think that’s what makes it so much funnier and also so much truer.
PGN: Melissa, what made you nervous about bringing the cameras into your home?
MR: I’m much more private than my mother. There’s certain parts of my life that I’m very protective of. That was a big leap for me.
PGN: The two of you clash a lot on the show, but it seems like you get along best when you’re shredding someone for what they wore on the red carpet. Is that an accurate assumption?
MR: You have to remember, the parent/child relationship is a universal theme. It’s really pulling back the curtain. Even though we work together great ...
JR: We can be angry at each other but don’t you say a word against us. It’s the real dynamic of mother/daughter — of family, really. It’s a family dynamic.
PGN: What do the two of you enjoy most about working together?
JR: Working together.
MR: Yes. The part where we get to work together.
JR: And I love seeing Melissa in makeup everyday. She looks so beautiful in makeup. For me that is such a joy every time I come across a picture of us. “Oh, she’s in makeup, doesn’t she look pretty.” I loved working with my grandson. I thought that was spectacular.
PGN: Joan, what was the biggest change for you moving from New York to Los Angeles?
JR: Oh, where do you start? First of all, giving up my kingdom. I feel suddenly like the Queen Mother after the king died and Queen Elizabeth took over. It’s not your kingdom anymore. Melissa is in charge of this household. And it’s hard not to say, “You’re doing it that way?”
MR: My thing was you didn’t say it that way. You just said, “This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong.” You didn’t ask the question. You just made a proclamation.
PGN: Do you think the two of you would clash as often if you weren’t living together?
JR: We don’t clash much because when we weren’t living together, it was very easy to say “I’ve got to go now,” or “I’m in a bad mood.” You hang up a phone and you realize, oh, that was wrong, and you call right back. But when you’re in a situation, for me at least, and it’s wrong, you don’t realize what you’ve done until much later.
MR: If you take away the living together, there’s less to disagree about.
JR: That’s very true. I don’t see that she’s eating off the wrong plates because I’m 3,000 miles away. It’s not bothering me. But if I’m there, I’m going to say why aren’t you using the other glasses that match better.
PGN: Did the two of you come to an understanding about the Dominica [Swedish nanny] situation?
JR: Well, she wins. It’s her house.
MR: The understanding is it’s none of my mother’s business.
JR: The understanding is the slut stays. And she’s a nice girl. There’s nothing wrong with her. You just don’t bring a girl like that into your house. I’m sorry.
PGN: But the two of you seemed to become friends over the course of the show.
JR: Oh, I like her.
MR: She’s fantastic with Cooper.
JR: Cooper loves her. There’s nothing wrong with her. [But] I don’t think you bring Harriet Hot-Titties into your house.
MR: [Audible choking.] That’s a new one. I almost just choked on my lunch. This was almost “Joan & Melissa: The Final Interview.” Joan called someone Harriet Hot-Titties and Melissa choked on a quesadilla.
JR: God forbid.
PGN: Joan, I understand at some point on the show you consider getting some more plastic surgery done. JR: Oh, absolutely. I think once somebody starts, whether it’s plastic surgery or Botox, it’s open-ended. I have it in my will that after I die, if I don’t look good in the coffin, Melissa is to absolutely bring in a doctor and have some fills put into my cheeks.
PGN: And Melissa, you objected to any more surgeries?
MR: At one point, enough is enough. Why are we taking undue risks when my mom looks fabulous?
JR: It’s very sweet, dear.
MR: Thank you, Mother.
PGN: Do you feel the show has helped your relationship?
MR: Yes, actually. Because there have been times where I said I didn’t say that or I did say that and now we have proof.
JR: I think it’s helped in the sense that you can see it black and white. And you can see more than ever that I’m right. Before it had to be a lot of “Well, you said ... ” Well, there it is right in front of you. Study it.
MR: She’s trying to burn tape out back. I never said that, you can’t prove it.
JR: I think Cooper enjoys it the most out of all of us. The tweets on him are incredible.
MR: It’s hilarious because he’s figured out how to work the system.
JR: Did you see what someone said? They tweeted me. They said, “If this was MGM, they’d sign him to be a star and start feeding him amphetamines.”
MR: I missed that one. You need to re-tweet that one so I can see it.
PGN: Do you see Cooper going into the family business?
MR: I would like to see him do whatever is going to make him happy. He’s very creative. I think he’ll gravitate more toward behind the scenes. But right now he wants to be a professional surfer. So we have a ways to go.
JR: I would love for him to be the best comedy writer. He should turn into Larry David.
MR: But comedy writers are so weird and dysfunctional.
JR: Yeah, but my God they have such a good time.
MR: Yeah, after 25 years of therapy.
JR: Yeah, well, we all have our little glitches.
PGN: If the opportunity comes to do another season of the show, will you two sign up for it?
JR: In a second. And I think the opportunity will come around. Even if the numbers fall to half, we’re still a hit.
MR: And so much has happened since we stopped shooting that the network was like, “Oh! Why did we have to miss that?” Literally a week after we stopped shooting, Cooper broke his wrist by jumping in between two of his friends trying to break up a fight. And I had to deal with all the moms.
JR: It doesn’t stop. There’s so much stuff that happened.
PGN: Are the two of you still going to do “Fashion Police” for the E! Network?
JR: Oh yes!
MR: They would have to drag us away from that. I have to say I think I run a very happy crew and a happy set. I think that’s why people are enjoying it so much — because all the hosts, starting with my mom and the others, really enjoy shooting the show. And I try and keep everybody happy and I think that’s what translates.
JR: And also what you’ve added to it. Melissa has put in all the specialty things, “The Rack Report,” “Guess Me From Behind” and “Bitch Stole My Look.” Melissa has zipped the show up.
MR: But it’s fun. Everyone has fun.
PGN: As entertainers who are known for criticizing celebrities, what do you think of the backlash against Ricky Gervais for his jokes while hosting the Golden Globes?
JR: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When you invite Kirstie Alley to dinner, don’t be shocked when she licks the dinner plates. This is a man who is known for his caustic, close-to-the-bone humor and then they’re in shock when he does it.
MR: He did it last year too and they had him come back again. So what were they expecting?
JR: And it’s the best thing that can happen to Ricky Gervais. He wasn’t that well known in this country even though he’s a huge star in England. This has put him on the map as an edgy comic. This is not a lose situation for Ricky.
MR: What did you think? Did you think he was funny?
PGN: He was hysterical.
JR: Thank you!
MR: By the way, most people in the room did [think he was funny], but everyone is so scared to be caught on camera laughing at something off-color, they are all holding their breath.
JR: Just the remark on Scientology was so brilliant. I just loved it. I thought he was wonderful.
MR: And for God’s sake, everyone needs to lighten up and understand it’s OK to make fun of ourselves.
JR: But these were girls that were serving pizza three weeks ago. So they’re all very uptight. They’re also very hungry.
MR: And that makes them cranky.
PGN: Do you think celebrities are more cautious about what they wear on the red carpet because of you?
JR: I think we’ve ruined the red carpet. In the old days, when we started, they all kind of dressed themselves. And you’d have all these great [looks] ... Demi Moore showing up in bicycle pants one year. Those were the good old days. Nowadays, everybody is dressed by stylists. Everyone is scared and they all look alike. If the color is green, there’s gong to be nine green dresses. If it’s going to be one shoulder this year, everybody is going to be one shoulder.
MR: It lost a lot of personality.
JR: Sometimes the designer is not your friend. Don’t get yourself a straight stylist. You’re already in trouble.
Catch Joan Rivers when she performs at 9 p.m. Feb. 5 at Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resorts, 3400 Pacific Ave. For more information or tickets, call 888-224-4586.
“Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on WeTV.