Melissa Rivers ventures into fictional comedy with ‘Lies My Mother Told Me’

She will be at the MJCCA Book Festival Nov. 5.

Joan Rivers in her stand-up comedy was more focused on the joke than any sense of veracity.

That style of exaggeration, dark humor and absurdism is what inspired her daughter Melissa to write her third book affiliated with her mother called “Lies My Mother Told Me.” She will discuss the book and sign copies at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s annual book festival Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. (Tickets are $38, which includes a book.)

Melissa Rivers, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said since her mom died in 2014, fans would ask her what Joan would say about whatever was happening in the news.

Melissa pondered writing a jokey op-ed but instead decided it would be more fun to just channel her mom’s voice and come up with a book full of ridiculous stories Joan might have told Melissa over the years about everything from King Tut and Catherine the Great to Thanksgiving and funerals.

Credit: SIMON & S

Credit: SIMON & S

“This is a work of fiction,” she said, unlike her two most previous books, the touching 2015 tribute “The Book of Joan” and 2017′s coffee table book “Joan Rivers Confidential: The Unseen Scrapbooks, Joke Cards, Personal Files, and Photos of a Very Funny Woman Who Kept Everything.” “There are only so many hours in a day to do therapy. If all this were true, I’d be in it 24/7 for years.”

Sometimes, the stories stem from actual nuggets of truth like trips Melissa’s son Cooper would take with Joan, or Joan conducting gay marriage ceremonies. But largely, it’s a lark.

“This is silly humor,” Melissa said. “Do not look for any emotional depth. Do not think you’re going to wipe away a tear. It’s nothing like that.”

Even the promotional blurbs on the book are purely facetious from the likes of Jimmy Hoffa (”When Joan told a story, the truth disappeared faster than I did!”) and William Shakespeare (”All’s not well that ends well. I’ve had massages with happier endings.”).

Melissa worked on the book during the pandemic with her writing partner and comic Larry Amaros via Zoom a couple of times a week. (Amaros was a ghost writer for some of her mom’s books, too.) “It was just fun,” she said. “He’s part of my family. He and I have always connected through humor. How far can we go and then reel it back in?”

For instance, they wrote that Joan supposedly told Melissa that Anne Frank got caught by the Nazis because she was a secret lover of dance and “writing was her side hustle,” Melissa said.

Joan’s voice is always bouncing around in Melissa’s head so replicating her in the book wasn’t difficult.

“Quit trying to control me from the great beyond Mom!” Melissa joked. “I know her rhythms so well after working together for so long. When you have a partner, it’s like a dance. I can find the cadence that makes it easier to write the joke. I can hear the music in my head.”

Melissa said she still grieves for her mom eight years later but it is now “bittersweet,” similar to the loss of her father and film producer Edgar Rosenberg, who died in 1987.

“Bittersweet is kind of where you stay,” she said. “There are times I’ve thought, ‘Why aren’t they here for this? I wish they were here for this!’ But it’s not that knee-buckling, gut-punch of grief.”


IF YOU GO

Melissa Rivers

Audience talk, Q&E and book signing, 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5. $38 including a book. Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Atlanta. atlantajcc.org.

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