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‘It was like jazz to her:’ Keeping the comedy of the late Joan Rivers alive through impersonation

Flickr user Ann010, Creative Commons
Joan Rivers

Love her, hate her, replicate her—there’s no denying that Joan Rivers was a force in American comedy. The first woman to host a late night network television talk show, the host of the critically-acclaimed “The Joan Rivers Show” and the co-host of the controversial E! fashion show “Fashion Police,” Rivers always kept people talking.

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Joe Posa, Tony Tripoli and Kyle Hustedt.

Rivers died in 2014, but actor and female impersonator Joe Posa is on a mission to keep her wise-cracking spirit alive with tribute shows across the country. Tony Tripoli, the head writer of “Fashion Police,” now writes for Posa’s impersonation of Rivers. This Friday and Saturday, Posa will be performing his act in The Emerald Room at The Monocle in the Grove neighborhood.

"She was definitely a trailblazer,” Posa said of Rivers.  “She was just herself. She made a career out of saying things people were thinking."

On Friday’s “Cityscape,” Posa, Tripoli, and the Monocle’s general manager Kyle Hustedt joined host Steve Potter to discuss Rivers’ legacy and the show that aims to keep her spirit alive.

"She loved the process of finding the good joke and turning it into the great joke. It was like jazz to her."

"She loved the process of finding the good joke and turning it into the great joke,” Tripoli said, describing how Rivers would know down to the syllable if a joke would work well or not. “It was like jazz to her."

Her brand of comedy—salacious, bawdy, foul-mouthed and irreverent—is one that’s hard to replicate today, both Tripoli and Posa said. There’s a culture of political correctness that stifles comedians.

"It is a horrible time for comedy right now,” Tripoli said. “Everyone is so uptight and thinks they can be upset on behalf of other people."

Listen to hear Posa’s impersonation of Rivers, some behind-the-scenes tidbits from working with Rivers and what to expect at this weekend’s shows:

Related Event

What: The Monocle Presents Joe Posa in Joan Rivers Tribute Show
When: Dec. 4 and 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Emerald Room at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110 
More information.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.   

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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