Posts Tagged ‘Joan Rivers’

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Joan Rivers, Jewel, Glen Burtnik: ON THE SCENE

April 6, 2013

Tune in this weekend, April 6 & 7, for an all new ON THE SCENE on News 12 New Jersey at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM each day.

This is one of my all time favorite episodes. I interviewed Joan Rivers at her Manhattan apartment. We had a conversation about complicated mother-daughter relationships, her enduring comedy career and who makes her laugh. This is not an interview of punchlines, but about real emotions and I think everyone watching will discover something new about Rivers…even after all her years in show business.

The interview with Jewel was done backstage at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood where she launched her 2013 national tour. Jewel donated items to raise money for a New Jersey charity helping Sandy victims, and she and I talk about her own ordeal with homelessness as a beginning artist…and how that’s helped her to identify with people in New Jersey who lost homes to the storm.

And my Glen Burtnik interview morphed into a profile of a songwriter and his song, and I think it’s fascinating. Glen co-wrote “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with Patty Smythe over 20 years ago. It’s a heartbreaking rock ballad. But the lyrics never meant that much to Glen…till his divorce years later. And suddenly, that song became almost impossible for him to sing.

Watch, and let me know what you think of the show.

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Where Great Art And “ON THE SCENE” Meet: Emmy Noms for OTS Alums

July 19, 2011

When I read the list of News and Documentary Emmy nominees  I saw some well deserved projects that have crossed paths with “ON THE SCENE.”

“Smash His Camera” is nominated, the documentary on paparazzo Ron Galella. It’s a fascinating, compelling look inside the mind, motivation and technique of the man widely considered to be the original American paparazzo. I interviewed Ron at his home last fall around the time “Smash His Camera” was released. For a clip check out my reel on http://www.johnbathke.com and search last year’s blog archive for more on the film and my impressions of Ron.

The Galella doc has some tough competition from “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” The documentary drew worldwide critical praise and though it had a successful theatrical release it was dissed by the Oscars. The filmmakers, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, deserve this Emmy nomination. I remember seeing this film for the first time at its Tribeca Film Festival debut, with Rivers and the filmmakers present. I had interviewed Rivers for ON THE SCENE shortly after filming was finished. I’m really interested to see if either film wins.

And I emailed my friend Roger Ross Williams with congratulations today. His “Music By Prudence” short documentary, which earned him a Best Director Oscar last year, was nominated for it’s television release by HBO for best music and sound. I interviewed Roger for a live audience at a screening along with Prudence Mabhena, the film’s subject.

There seem to be a lot of documentaries being filmed these days, but the ones that illuminate, that truly shine a light on the many facets of a personality or issue remain very few, indeed. These are three films that did that and more.

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My Interview With Rita Rudner

June 23, 2011

Last night I spent some time with Rita Rudner. She’s doing an East Coast mini-tour and performed at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  I interviewed her backstage for ON THE SCENE.

I wondered about a couple things: would she talk like she does on stage…that sweet, quirky, staccato, deer-in-the-headlights sort of affect. And would she go for the one-liner rather than the reveal. That’s always the question when I interview comedians because they instinctively want to be funny. But I want the audience to learn something about them, too.

In reality she was open, relaxed, and willing to talk about every subject I brought up including the enduring impact of her mother dying when Rudner was just 12 years old.  She also told me that she’s “mortified” about much of the comedy being performed. She thinks it’s gotten too harsh. Rudner is not a topical comedian…the wars, recession and cloud of terrorism that we live under these days…don’t make their way into her act as they do Bill Maher, let’s say. She also doesn’t make the rich and famous the brunt of her jokes, like Joan Rivers.  Rudner’s point of view is personal…marriage, parenting, and her own social ineptitude are the basis of her act.

It ended up being one of the interviews I’ve enjoyed the most in a long time.  We covered a lot of ground so there’s a lot in this interview people are going to relate to. The airdate for this next ON THE SCENE special is being announced VERY soon.

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Awards Season and ON THE SCENE Alums

December 4, 2010

It’s exciting for me whenever something great happens for an artist I’ve enjoyed interviewing for ON THE SCENE.

That happened again Friday when the Producers Guild of America (PGA) nominated “Smash His Camera” for its Best Documentary Feature award. The film chronicles the photography and life of paparazzo Ron Galella. In previous posts I’ve written about my experience interviewing the controversial and colorful Galella. And I’ve heard from a lot of viewers and colleagues who were fascinated by the ON THE SCENE profile, and I appreciate how engaging people found it.

What I don’t understand, is why “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” was eliminated from Oscar contention and hasn’t picked up any other early awards nominations after playing to rave reviews at film festivals all over America and becoming, I have to believe, the most seen documentary of the year, if the number of theaters that showed it is any indication. It’s a compelling, surprising, and extraordinarily well produced story of a show business life, by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg. They are serious storytellers whose work here merits upper echelon award consideration. In a documentary, the award is for the filmmakers, not the subject of the piece. Is there a preconception that  a film about a comedian is by nature a less serious endeavor? Is there red carpet resentment against Rivers by the industry? If so, that’s absurd. Quality filmmaking needs to be recognized or we risk losing it. (I interviewed Joan Rivers for ON THE SCENE last year, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Times Square. People still ask me about her. It’s one of my most popular interviews and one I will always remember vividly.)

The Grammy nominations also came out this week. I was wondering if the cast recording for “Memphis” the Broadway musical would be nominated for Best Musical Show Album. It wasn’t. When I interviewed David Bryan at his house this summer, he told me how much he hoped the album would get a nomination. He was proud of the cast and creative team for working well together as they plowed through the recording session at a lightning pace. “Memphis” won the Best Musical Tony Award this year and often the recording of the Best Musical winner receives a Grammy nom, but not this time. (David Bryan won three Tony Awards for writing the music and producing “Memphis.” You may also know him as the keyboardist in Bon Jovi.)

Awards season is just beginning, we’ll see who stands out over the next couple months.