Why is Betty White Hot and Joan Rivers Not?

Why twentysomethings adore one older lady but not the other

By Susan Toepfer
From the new documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"
Photograph: Photo by Charles Miller

Yes, Rivers now has a reality show, debuting later this year, and the reviews of the new documentary have been admiring. But in the hierarchy of Hollywood, a documentary is not a blockbuster hit, and a reality show is not a sitcom (White’s Hot in Cleveland is on cable not network, and reviews have been mixed. But she’s front and center with terrific performers like Frasier‘s Jane Leeves, Just Shoot Me!‘s Wendie Malick, and 70s darling Valerie Bertinelli).  So we probably won’t be seeing Rivers doing an opening monologue on SNL. But will she stop fighting to get respect? Will she go gracefully into that wisecracking night? Oh grow up! She is the queen of standup, her former manager says in A Piece of Work, and, “there will be nail marks on the red carpet before she abdicates.”  

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