Joe Posa brings his spot on impersonation of the late and great comic icon Joan Rivers in “Back & Bitter Than Ever” to the Wilton Theater Factory (2306 North Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors) from Feb 15 to March 3. Catch the show that Melissa Rivers tried to stop, and one can only imagine the new material Joe will have about that (I personally can’t wait to hear).
It would be easy to rave about how good Joe is, but I don’t think I can say it nearly as eloquently as these two journalists did:
“As someone fortunate enough to have interviewed the real Rivers a few times—the final time, her last major interview before her death in August 2014—“the similarities of voice and presence between the figure—the performer, Joe Posa—and Rivers are resonant and mesmerizing.” Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast”
“The voice is exact, the hairdo and clothes as Joan wore, the mannerisms and jokes were making one believe that this was indeed Joan Rivers on stage.” Gary R Beck, Puerto Vallarta Restaurant & Entertainment Guide.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Joe/Joan and her husband/manager, Frank Ribaudo for this exclusive Hotspots interview.
What’s the first drag show you ever attended?
I saw Lypsinka in New York City in the Village. I was so impressed by him and I loved his Theatrical approach. It was in the late 1980’s.
When did you start doing drag and what made you start? When did it become your career?
I started out as a dancer and did a lot of theater and for fun after shows, I would grab a hairbrush and lip-sync Barbra [Streisand]. People thought it was great. Sometime later, I started an act without make-up imitating different famous stars. I knew nothing about make-up, costumes or hair. Then in October of 1993, An Evening at La Cage came to New York at the Blue Angel and they were casting. So I attempted to do the hair, makeup, and costumes and I went in to audition. Everyone in New York wanted it and they were only hiring seven people. They hired me and worked with me, to help me learn how to do my make-up, etc. and it changed my life. I was cast as Barbra and Liza at the Blue Angel on 44th street. We did six or seven shows a week. I then started doing the club scene and it took off from there.
When did you start impersonating Joan Rivers?
I had always loved Joan and her New York sensibility and the fact that she was a survivor in life. In 2002 I decided I was going to try impersonating her, and the first time was at the Boatslip in Provincetown. They were doing a fundraiser called the Hollywood Ball, and I thought Joan needed to host this event. I had four to six weeks to get it together and luckily it went really well. I then incorporated her into the shows I was doing.
Shortly afterwards, I started getting more and more requests to host events and do red carpets as Joan. She was so hot, I was getting so much work impersonating her that the other characters became secondary.
Did you ever meet Joan Rivers?
I got hired to go to Houston, Texas to do a red carpet as Joan. Unbeknownst to me Joan Rivers was the host of the event. We both went on stage together and afterwards she invited me into her dressing room and we got to know each other. We had a connection. She was like a mother, so nurturing.
She invited me to come to any of her shows complimentary. Sometime later, I did another gig with her. It was on CBS This Morning, promoting her then Show “How’d You Get So Rich?” We arrived in her limo and as they introduced Joan Rivers exiting the limo, it was actually me as Joan, followed by Joan.
You are now performing with Tony Tripoli, how did that come about?
In 2012 I decided to contact Tony about maybe opening up for him. For those of you who do not recognize the name (as I am sure you would recognize his face) Tony had five incredible years as a regular opening act for Joan Rivers. He also was the executive producer and head writer on E!’s hit show, “Fashion Police,” and he was also a cast member on “Joan And Melissa: Joan Knows Best”, and the online phenomenon, “In Bed With Joan.”
I invited Tony to come do a show with me in Boston. Before he said yes, he asked Joan who immediately gave her approval, and said, “I love Joe Posa, he is my favorite Joan Rivers Impersonator”. We performed together at Club Café, the club my husband owns, that same year.
Since you mentioned him, how did you meet your husband Frank, and how long have you guys been together?
I met Frank at Club Café in October of 2000 and we have been together ever since.
How did this show, Back & Bitter Than Ever, come about?
After a successful run of “The Bitch is Back Show,” that played throughout the U.S. and México, we wanted to launch a new show with more edgy comedy that only Joan could do. We added Tony to the mix due to his unique brand of comedy and his ability to let audiences feel like they have an insight to Joan. We are excited to share the laughs with our South Florida audiences. It’s almost five years since Joan passed and we are honored to be able to keep her comedy alive.
How do you capture Joan so perfectly?
I need to feel the journey of who that person is to impersonate them. Joan was a survivor of show business and suicide [of her husband Edgar Rosenberg, in 1987], and she has many parts of her that were compassionate because of that. She is in my head when I’m performing. I am her. I feel like I am channeling her. I’m a vessel for her work and her voice. Tony gave me the most amazing compliment ever, he said: ‘People can look and sound like her, but you smell like Joan.’”
How do you keep Joan with you?
Joan’s favorite piece of jewelry she sold on QVC was the Bee pin. Bees are not anatomically correct to be able to fly, but they do. It’s the same as Joan’s life since she defied all the odds and became successful. In Puerto Vallarta, as I was writing the script for one of the video’s for my show, produced by Broken Heel at Cinema 31 Studio’s right here in Wilton Manors, I couldn’t get rid of a bee that was flying around me. I realized Joan was there.
Joan had three Bee pins that she kept for herself. For my birthday, in August, Tony gave me one of Joan’s Altoid cases, which she always carried with her. In the case were three Bee pins that she had worn. I was so honored to get this. I wear them on stage all the time, so Joan is always with me.
What’s ahead for you?
We have recently signed with three large comedy festivals, and are working on performing in Manchester, England for this year’s Pride Festival, as well as bringing the show back to Boston’s’ Club Cafe, which is where it all began in 2012. Keep in touch at www.joeposa.com and on Facebook at Joe Posa as Joan Rivers.
Don’t forget to catch Joe in Back & Bitter Than Ever! at the Wilton Theater Factory from February 15 through March 3. You can order tickets at JoePosa.com, and receive $5 off by using the code “HOT”.