When Joan Rivers died last week, a common refrain resounded throughout the movie sphere of Twitter: “Watch Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” It was good advice. Anyone who wants to understand her importance as a media figure, or just as a person, would do well to check out that documentary. And after seeing it, you might have a hankering to check out more docs about entertainers who are devoted to making people laugh.
Here are ten, including the Rivers film, to catch up with:
Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002) and Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013)
The Broadway legend kept working right up until her death earlier this year. At Liberty is Elaine Stritch in her own words, a filmed version of her acclaimed one-woman show. She won an Emmy for her riotous recounting of her life and work, a two-hour cavalcade of memories shot by a team of directors led by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. Shoot Me is Stritch as viewed through someone else’s lens. While the actress and singer is still on point with her defiant rambunctiousness, director Chiemi Karasawa delivers a more raw, vulnerable side of her. Footage of Stritch without makeup, lying in bed due to sickliness, are the sort of thing that you don’t get from a performer just talking about it on stage. It’s a funny but moving look at reflection in old age while still pursuing what one loves.