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Originally published Friday, February 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Get ready, Seattle: Joan Rivers is rolling into town

The comedian will perform at Benaroya Hall on Feb. 29, just days after the Academy Awards.

Special to The Seattle Times

COMEDY PREVIEW

Joan Rivers

8 p.m. Wednesday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $29-$55 (206-215-4747 or www.benaroyahall.org).
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After more than four decades in the entertainment business, Joan Rivers is not ready to be an icon. The 78-year-old comedian is too busy for any of that nonsense.

Rivers, who will be performing Wednesday at Benaroya Hall, is still as sharp, tenacious and quick-witted as ever — not to mention one of the hardest-working comedians in the business.

Rivers appears with her daughter Melissa in the reality series "Joan Knows Best," is a co-host on "Fashion Police" and promotes her brand of jewelry on QVC. Somehow she still finds time to perform stand-up.

What keeps her motivated?

"I love the business, and right now I'm talking to you from inside of a limo, which is taking me to perform tonight," said Rivers, in a recent phone interview. "So a limo is driving me to do something I love and there's going to be a check at the end of it. That's a nice day."

Rivers broke into comedy by shaking up stereotypes and speaking about things that, at the time, female comedians did not talk about — subjects like sex, race, abortion, homosexuality and gender equality.

When asked what makes a good comedian, Rivers said, "I think a good comedian has to be able to say what you really think, and that takes a lot of guts. For something to be funny, it has to be true. That's the basis for all comedy."

Rivers has never shied away from controversy.

Celebrity death: "Very often we're so scared to say anything, this whole Whitney Houston thing now is such a great example, as it was with Michael Jackson. Slow down here, this is a druggie; druggies die young. Why are we all so surprised?"

Gay marriage: "I think gay men should get married but shut up," Rivers said, quickly adding, "That's only a joke! It's wonderful and terrific and fabulous. It's just the right thing to do."

Marijuana: In a recent episode of "Joan Knows Best" — in which daughter Melissa plays the mother figure and Joan plays the unruly teenager still living in the basement — Rivers and a friend smoked marijuana, much to Melissa's chagrin.

"I'll tell you that it (marijuana) should be as legal as liquor. It doesn't make you angry, it makes you happy," Rivers said. "We had a lot of fun filming that episode."

Rivers paved the way for female comedians the moment she stepped on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" stage in 1965. Carson recognized something special that night and told her she was destined to be a star — but she's not ready to be seen as an icon, or to cede ground to younger comics.

"I have no time for any of that nonsense because I'm still breaking ground," she said. "I'm still in the trenches and still in total competition."

Rivers has a few words for her fans in Seattle: "Get ready, you're going to be shocked. Comedy should shock you, and it's going to be good."

Jeff Albertson: 206-464-2304 or jalbertson@seattletimes.com

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