Joan RiversBetty Who?

Legendary comedienne Joan Rivers is back and better than ever in the new documentary 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,' which opens in select theaters Friday.

The award-winning doc follows the highs and lows of Rivers' long-standing career in Hollywood, including her fallout with Johnny Carson and NBC, the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, and her successful, albeit controversial, victory on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.'

Rivers -- who turned 77 this week -- recently chatted with Moviefone about the pressures of Hollywood, Betty White, advice for Conan O'Brien and her secret to surviving in the business. Joan RiversBetty Who?

Legendary comedienne Joan Rivers is back and better than ever in the new documentary 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,' which opens in select theaters Friday.

The award-winning doc follows the highs and lows of Rivers' long-standing career in Hollywood, including her fallout with Johnny Carson and NBC, the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, and her successful, albeit controversial, victory on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.'

Rivers -- who turned 77 this week -- recently chatted with Moviefone about the pressures of Hollywood, Betty White, advice for Conan O'Brien and her secret to surviving in the business.

Whose idea was it to film the documentary?
Ricki Stern's mother [laughs]. Margie Stern is my very good friend up in Washington, and I met Ricki up there through her mother. And it just [so] happened [that] one Thanksgiving, we were all hanging out together, and Ricki said -- and she had just gotten this Darfur movie, she and Annie [Sundberg], off the ground ... and so they said, she would like to follow you around. And I thought, "Oh that's hilarious. She's gone from Darfur to a comedian." But I said sure, and they stayed with me for a year and a half.

A lot of the film deals with the pressure and rejection you faced in Hollywood. Was there ever a moment in your career when you just wanted to walk away?
Never. But there was also never a moment where I ever have thought I've made it. It's a very slippery business. You don't know where you are. I don't know. Maybe, I guess, if you have $500 million in the bank you can take a deep breath. I don't know. But I've never had the career that entitled you to say, "Well, I'm gonna take a year off now to think and paint and I'll be back," because there's no "I'll be back."

How did you manage to get through it all? Because when I watched the film, I kept thinking to myself, "I could never handle this."
I love the business. It's all I've ever wanted to do. There was never a second choice for me. There was never a "Well, gee, maybe I'll do this or go to law school" [laughs]. There was no question ... This is my life, and I love it. Someone said to me, "You're addicted." And I'm addicted ... It's almost like being a druggie.

The film also focuses on your role on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.' What are your thoughts on your experience now that it's over?
I was delighted to do it. I got to spend a month with Melissa, which was fabulous. So that was great. I'm proud that I won!

Would you ever do a reality show like that again?
Melissa and I are doing 'Mother Knows Best?'; we're starting to film that in June. I just love competition, and I would have loved to have been a game show host along the way somewhere.

Watch the 'Joan: Rivers: A Piece of Work' Trailer

Your movie is hitting theaters on the heels of Conan O'Brien's new deal with TBS. What's your take, now that the late-night dust has settled?
I think they both came out of it such winners. Are you kidding? Leno's right back where he should be, boring America to sleep and getting great ratings. He's perfect! He doesn't rock the boat. You can go to sleep. He's not going to upset you. He's perfect. And Conan got more publicity than he ever got, and he walked away with $45 million.

Do you have any advice for him?

You lucky f***** [laughs]. That's my advice. Know you're lucky. But I think there's such an ego there that he doesn't even understand how lucky he is.

Much of this movie deals with aging in Hollywood, and it reminded me a little of the Betty White/'Saturday Night Live' phenomenon. What has been your reaction to it?
I think it's wonderful. I always said this: Comedy, as long as we can make you laugh, you're gonna want us, and Betty is a shining example. Before her was George Burns. I used to see George Burns at parties. He was 94 years old and he was dancing! And I used to say to my husband, "That's going to be me!" And that's wonderful. Comedy is just a special field, totally, and Betty has got such a great humor to her, and how great they've recognized her. I think it's terrific. How nice for her.

Do you think you'd ever host 'Saturday Night Live' again?

They've never asked me, so I don't think I have to worry about whether I'm up for it again. I have never been, which comes out in the documentary, I've never been in the "in" group. I've never been considered. But that's what keeps me punching, if that makes sense. I'm still in the "I'll show you" mentality.

You say in the film that you'll never turn down a gig. Is that really true?
Of course not! You don't know. How would I know? I had my play, which I thought was gonna be the big thing, and it turned out it wasn't. And the documentary, which I thought, "Oh, well, it's Ricki. What the hell? It doesn't hurt that you guys want to follow me, these poor idiots. Let them follow me!" [laughs] You don't know in our business. That's what's so funny. In our business, you do not know.

Will you ever make another attempt at Broadway?
Oh yeah. I love Broadway, and I'll probably bring the play in. And what we didn't show in the documentary -- it was a huge hit in Edinburgh, huge hit in LA, huge hit in San Francisco. And it wasn't until we got to London -- that's what really gobsmacked me, because we went, "Wait a second ..." And they only showed the bad reviews. They didn't show the good reviews. But that's fine. You can't show everything in a documentary. But I'll probably bring the play in.

You've been in the business for decades. What's your secret to surviving?
Never think you've made it. Never think you're any good [laughs]. I'm always trying. I get out there, I want the audience to have a good time; I want the audience to like me; I want to give them new material. Don't rest on your laurels, because laurels wither.