Really Jewish? Joan Rivers Live at the Apollo

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This article analyses Joan Rivers' hosting of the BBC's flagship stand-up comedy programme, Live at the Apollo, in 2007. It draws methodologically on both performance studies and Jewish cultural studies, the latter of which aims to interrogate the cultural politics of difference. In doing so, it attempts to read the ways that Rivers' performance might be coded as Jewish by positioning it in relation to theories and practices of ‘Jewish humour’, other autobiographical texts by Rivers and the author's own cultural experience. The analysis focusses, in particular, on what Susan Melrose (2007) would call Rivers’ ‘signature practices’ and how these were informed by specific experiences and cultural contexts in the 1960s. These include Rivers’ season playing the Borscht Belt and her exposure to the live performance work of Lenny Bruce, which are embodied as cultural memory in Rivers’ set at the Apollo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101
Number of pages111
JournalComedy Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • comedy
  • performance
  • women
  • Jewish studies

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