Comedian Joan Rivers took the stage of the Merriweather Post Pavilion by storm last night. Sprinting out in what she described as "hooker clothes," she immediately rearranged the front-row seating, and then, after singling a woman out of the crowd, made a second entrance and began bantering with her about marriage ("You can always tell a first wife because she has a cheap ring"), breast size ("You're a 34B? I'm a 14A"), birth control and gynecologists.
Rivers transformed kitchen table chitchat into giddy, hilarious comedy by following her own one-liners with even funnier toppers at an amphetamine pace. She dashed to and fro, skewering celebrities and taboos. Then she would stop, ask the women in the crowd, "Can we talk?" and reestablish the basic intimacy once again. Rivers was loud, brassy and relentless, but she elevated a slumber-party free-for-all to publicly shared theater.
By contrast, comedian David Brenner was tame and smug. He did toss out some funny lines ("E.T. reminds me of my whining little sister: 'I wanna go home.' So go home"), but he allowed long lulls, and even stooped to gratuitous anti-Arab and anti-gay jokes.
In the opening set, Roslyn Kind -- Barbra Streisand's sister -- displayed a marvelous voice with a broad spectrum of dynamics. Unfortunately, most of her material was contrived.