“Enter Talking” Quotes

I recently finished “Enter Talking” by Joan Rivers. Here’s the quotes I found interesting.

“I felt timing inside me, knew instinctively the exact moment to pause, the instant to hit a line like punching a button to detonate laughter – and it was laughter with me, not at me, laughter intoxicating beyond anything. I had never knowing how to deal with adults, ahd always felt there was nothing inside my head which could be of any interest to them, but those men wanted this pathetic, fantasy-ridden kid at the table, wanted me to perform and be funny, wanted to be entertained and I was doing it. I had found out how to get my way, how to get them to say, “Sure, you can stay up another twenty minutes.” By making them laugh I was in charge. It was the first time I ever had the heady feeling, the first time I found this way to be in control – and I have lived by that knowledge to this day.” (54)

“A comic onstage must be in command, an authoritarian figure. Ladylike ways do not work for my audiences. I have to be the toughest one in the room or they will talk right through me. They have to know I am like a lion tamer who says, “if you come near me, I’ll kill you.” (55)

“If you love the wrong person, there is a point where you must walk away, not matter what it does to you.” (66)

“Nobody else will ever have your ambition, will ever hand your success to you, so you had better go out and achieve it yourself.” (70)

“Everybody in the business knows that resumes are mostly lies and no legitimate producer looks at them – or, if they do, they know instantly which are the lies. Nobody ever says, “Oh, I’m going to hire you because I see you were in so-and-so.” If you have a big credit, they already know it.” (77)

“I would think, Please, God, if you’re going to make me a failure, fine. Bud don’t make me a failure at something I don’t want to do.” (84)

“Whenever nobody laughed, Lou Alexander pressed on with energy. If his ego was on the line, he had learned to hide that.” (116)

“He told me that other people’s material only worked well for them, and when I knew who I was, I would know what would work for me.” (119)

“I was experiencing a show business truth – familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds hope.” (130)

“Even sobbing in the filthy shower in Boston, telling myself, “I’m not going to do this anymore; I’m not going to do it anymore,” I had known I would keep on going, no matter what. My parents were not going to defeat me.” (147)

“All of us in comedy have had our Show Bars, our hideous low points that almost destroy us – except that we come back to have more of them – walking out on stages hundreds and hundreds of times when lights are broken, when microphones do not work, when audiences are hostile, when our material stinks. That is what makes you tough. That is what changes you from a happy amateur to a professional, tans your hide, turns you, eventually, leathery.” (149)

“I could not endure the reality that I might end up Joan Molinsky, an unattractive, nondescript little Jewish girl, run-of-the-mill, who might just as well have stayed in Brooklyn and married the druggist and had a normal life. I had come from normal life, from real life, and nobody there had been happy. I knew I had to be special, had to have a life different from anything I had ever known, and if I ended up ordinary Joan Molinsky, I would always be unhappy and make my husband and children unhappy.” (207)

“How could he be loving when from childhood he had never been taught what it is to love – when his wife did not love him and his children did not love him?” (216)

“The act evolves out of yourself – but not intellectually. It gathers emotionally inside you, in a strange way a by-product of struggle, of a willingness to do anything, try anything, expose yourself to anything – staying in motion because sooner or later those ripples will cause change. This is paying your dues, appearing again and again and again on every sort of stage in front of every kind of audience, until you gradually, gradually acquire technique and a stage identity, which is not you, but has your passion, your hurts, your angers, your particular humor.” (217)

“When you begin losing an audience, do not get loud; get quiet, make them find you and come back to you.” (223)

“The only way you can go into show business is to expect no reward at all – which, of course, is impossible. Everybody goes into this business for profit and recognition. The paradox is: If you are not in it for the rewards, they are more likely to come to you. If you are willing to do anything just to work – if you are obsessed – you will make your luck.” (241)

“Talent rises to the surface like the best of cream because there is so little of it. All the neurotics go into this business, the unhappy people, the misfits, and they say, “I’m going to be an actor; I’m going to be a comic.” The ones with talent always make it, unless their neurosis is so great it stops them. Talent shines through.” (241)

“But to maintain success, stamina is more important than talent. You have to learn to be a marathon runner.” (242)

“It was wrong to let a man I would never marry devote his life to me.” (244)

“I discovered the performer’s paradox: the greater the high of a success, the deeper the pit of frustration afterward.” (246)

“Just supporting myself by performing has always been to me major success in show business.” (247)

“I was absorbing a sorry truth of show business – rejection is the norm and acceptance the oddity.” (252)

“You must make crucial choices in comedy, must constantly say, “This is funny, but it is not for me.” (253)

“I was doing hunks that sort of worked, but had no consistent image of myself onstage – and never even thought about it. There was no core to me, nothing that made it all the same girl. I was only trying to be a funny girl – anything for a laugh, whether it fir the character or not. The minute there was no laugh, there was no me – and the audience knew it instantly.” (259)

“I had no concept till then of the incredible dedication of somebody like Tennessee Williams. I had always thought he sat down in his room and wrote A Streetcar Named Desire and brought it to somebody who said, “This is very good, I’ll produce it.” But here was this Pulitzer Prize winner, who had already given us Blanche DuBois, working like a beginner with his first play. After all the pretty parties, all the nice manners, all the big limousines that he pulled up in, there he was day after day in the theater cutting and fixing and pruning and changing and switching and worrying, sitting, hunched forward, making notes in the low box stage at right, where Lincoln would have gotten it.” (276)

“Experience counts for a great deal and very little. Every night onstage I feel I am starting from scratch, still not quite sure what I am doing and where I am going, thrown by the simplest thing that goes wrong.” (276)

“Jack Benny once said, “No matter how big you are, you have to get to the stage through the kitchen.” (276)

“The anger and bitterness in him were so great, you could see he would not last long as a comic. He could not keep himself from making a statement – and you cannot make statements through comedy. Your anger can be forty-nine percent and your comedy fifty-one percent, and you are okay. If the anger is fifty-one percent, the comedy is gone. Comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy.” (282)

“I knew that they wanted to laugh and that I was going to fail them. So I had no confidence, and when you walk onstage without confidence, never meeting the audience’s eyes, they smell the fear. Everything is affected – your delivery, your look, your stance.” (301)

“Never trust an audience. Never think they are truly your friends. Get their attention and their respect immediately. You are like a lion tamer on that stage, either master or victim, and there is no in between.” (301)

“I have learned that certain kinds of success can ruin you. If I had been a hit in the Catskills that summer, I would probably not be where I am today. The struggle to make it in the mountains, the browbeating you suffer, defeats many comics. They wake up at age forty and find they are Catskills comics, locked into that groove of humor, sapped of the talent and drive they need to reach the next rung. Once a cruise comic did so well on a cruise ship that he went to his agent and said, “I’m ready for Caesars palace.” The agent answered, “As soon as it floats.” (302)

“It started my lifelong technique of taping every show, replaying the act, making notes, and using the new lines that worked.” (304)

“Lenny Bruce was hysterically funny with total control of his audience. The children were lined up to be fed. I was seeing Jesus.” (307)

“That night I realized the importance of getting down to basics: What are we really talking about? Why are we embarrassed about this? If that is all it is, so what? We need to know what we are really bothered about, need to get in touch with our true feelings and attitudes so we can deal with them.” (308)

“Personal truth means to me talking about your pain, which means stripping everything away, showing all of yourself, not some corner of your life okay for audiences to see. But the risk is awesome. When you open yourself up, talking about things that deeply pain you, perhaps the audience will not be your friend, perhaps when you bare your soul and say, “Here are my thighs,” they may go, “Yeah? So? Waiter, another drink please,” instead of “My god, my God, you’ve been living with this?” That is a tremendous fear to overcome.” (309)

“My pain had found a channel and was spilling through, flooding me with a happy hysteria, goading me to speak fast and make everything funny because at any second I might begin to cry.” (310)

“At last I had become hurt enough, upset enough, angry enough to expose her onstage – and in my act from that night on, the pain kept spilling and spilling and spilling.” (311)

“When you work solely for money, the spark and excitement go and the audience knows it.” (314)

“I wondered to myself why I constantly chose impossible men. Maybe I was picking men who would not stop my career, men I would not have to marry.” (321)

“Freddie used to ask people what they thought of a new performer. “Liked” was the kiss of death. “Loved” or “hated” interested him. At least the performer had aroused emotion. It was the first time being loathed by some people was my big asset.” (330)

“There was within me a primal understanding that I could only be happy alone onstage, talking one-on-one to the audience.” (333)

“They all kept saying, “She goes too far…” and kept coming back, and night after night I was feeling those shock waves of laughter, luxuriating in the appreciation, getting that soaring sensation of liftoff.” (342)

“I learned that if I made even one friend in the audience, then I did not care if the entire rest of the audience turned against me.” (343)

“William Randolph Heart said, “If you write for the masses, you eat with the classes. If you write for the classes, you eat with the masses.” (344)

“I thought a hook was low-class, so it took me years to find mine and it just came naturally. Much later, when my act had really become gossiping over the back fence with audiences, I slipped into “Can we talk?” I said it so much, so automatically, it became my identifying line. People began to know who I was oh – “Oh, yeah, she’s the one who says ‘Can we talk?’” I hate saying it – I do not like anything that’s consciously done. It is too manipulative. But that hook lifted me off a plateau in my career, and what really took me through the roof was talking about personalities.” (347)

“You cannot rely on anything, even while it is happening. You cannot say, “Okay, I’ve reached this level.” You have reached no level. You get up the next morning and you are at the bottom all over again. You have your talent on this day, but you never know whether tomorrow you will be able to look at something and make a joke of it – whether you will still have that gift that came from nowhere and may disappear into nowhere.” (358)

“In a curious way, failure was setting me free. Since show business considered me too old, too shopworn, too shocking, there was nobody left to please except myself – and that, of course, is the real secret of pleasing the audience. When you enjoy what you are doing, they will enjoy it with you.” (364)

As always, if you liked the quotes please buy the book here.

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