There are two types of people in the world: those who love Joan Rivers, the brash, raspy comedienne, and those who can't stand her. Offstage, though, the legendary performer is easy to like. Rivers is no diva: she's been known to tote her own luggage at the airport, and she checks into hotels under her own name. Her grandson, she says, calls her Nana New Face: a nickname celebrating her many plastic surgeries.
Rivers, 76, a one-time talk-show host, has reinvented her career several times. These days, she is an onstage star of the Venetian in Las Vegas, and the winner of last season's The Apprentice. And Rivers (née Molinsky) hosts the Viacom reality show How'd You Get So Rich? on TV Land, on which Rivers asks millionaires and billionaires, with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, how they became wealthy. (The difference between her program and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is that the subjects are in on the joke.) Here, Rivers "tawks" with DailyFinance.
Q: Was there any concern, either from you or from the network, that How'd You Get So Rich? might not go over so well, given the economy?
A: Just the opposite. I think a show like this at this point says, A, if you have a good idea, you can still make a fortune, and B, it doesn't have to be made in the stock market. I think that's why the ratings have been so good. It shows there is plenty of opportunities out there.Q: How do you lean politically? Do you consider yourself a Republican?
A: I consider myself nothing. I never considered myself a Republican. I was very, very, very friendly with Nancy Reagan -- well, yes, I guess am a Republican. I don't believe in death taxes. I think if I pay my taxes, what I have at the end belongs to me. Go to hell! I believe in those kinds of things. I believe the government spends money stupidly. In that kind of a sense, I am a Republican.
Q: When you talk to successful entrepreneurs, what's the common thread?
A: They all work seven days a week. They all adore what they are doing. Nobody says, 'Hey, that ain't my job,' or 'Gee, it's 5 o'clock, I have to go home now.' Everyone saw a niche and filled it.
Q: What's the status of the show?
A: Our finale -- which I adore -- is coming up Wednesday. It's such a tight economy, they only gave all of their new shows six runs. That was TV Land's decision. But we've brought them the highest numbers they've ever gotten, so I think the next time around, they will do a thirteener with us.
Q: You're sure there's going to be a next time?
A: Who the hell knows? In theory, there is. Again, it's a rotten economy. In our business, you don't know anything.
Q: You're an entrepreneur yourself. You sell your own products on QVC. Do you relate to these people?
A: Totally. That's one of the reasons I was able to relate to them. It's one of the reasons I won The Apprentice. It's because I'm an entrepreneur. Whatever drive that is, I have that entrepreneurial drive.
Q: How has that QVC business going for you?
A: It's been going amazingly well. We're up over last year.
Q: Have you always seen yourself as a businesswoman?
A: I never see myself as a businesswoman. I just get excited about my projects. I just get excited and very passionate about my projects. I wish I were a better businesswoman. A man named Arthur Toll tried to take my company public and absconded with the funds and literally went to jail over it, so I have not been a very good businesswoman. I had to buy my name back and buy my likeness back.
Q: Do you feel rich?
A: No, no, no. Rich is when you can live the style you live in and never have work again. Rich is having Picasso paint your house. These people in How'd You Get So Rich? are rich. They say to their children, "You've been bad -- go to your suite."
Q: How do people like that though deal with a down economy? Do they tell their kids, "No Maserati for your 16th birthday"?
A: Remember, this is all first-generation wealth. So the children have seen the parents make it, and it some cases, the children remember when the parents did not have it.
Q: Why are so many celebrities so bad at handling their money?
A: Because they're not businesspeople, they're actors. It's not about the money. It's about the craft and the doing of it.