Joan Rivers goes ”Bah Bah Bah”
PBS’ Emmy award-winning Jakers! now has another feather in its cap — or should we say sheep in its herd? The inimitable Joan Rivers lends her voice to the show, set on a farm in Ireland, as Shirley the Sheep, the wife of Mel Brooks’ sheep Wiley. Jakers! (which basically means ”gee whiz!”) tells the tale of Piggley Winks, an adorable Irish swine who often gets into a fix with the help of his friends Dannan the duck and Ferny the bull, with some of the most clever writing and storytelling in children’s television today. Told in flashback sequences from Piggley’s point of view — he’s now a grandfather trying to teach his grandpigs a few lessons — the show highlights the special bond between grandparent and grandchild, and how storytelling can be a great way to impart knowledge from one generation to the next. (The show will soon welcome another famous wizened Irish storyteller, Frank McCourt, who’ll play one of Piggley’s teachers.) We caught up with the show’s latest wooly addition (who’s also at work on the pilot for a new talk show on Bravo) to tell us about the program and her favorite real-life role — as grandma to five-year-old Cooper.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You play Shirley the Sheep on Jakers!, which is set in Ireland. Are you glad you didn’t have to finagle an Irish accent for that?
JOAN RIVERS: They wouldn’t have picked me. I can’t do accents. I’m not that kind of actress.
What do you like about Jakers!?
I just love the whole concept. It’s about family values — something you don’t see a lot of today. That whole bond there between the grandparent and grandchild.
What kind of a reaction do you get from your grandson Cooper when he sees your work?
Listen, hey, I’m the voice of Shirley the Sheep on Jakers!, I was in Shrek [2, as herself] — I’m a hottie to his friends. When he hears my voice in a film, he’s thrilled. ”That’s grandma, that’s grandma.”
What kinds of things do you like to do with him as a grandmother?
This guy has been to Disneyland more times than Mickey Mouse. I like to do all the typical cliché things. I spoil him rotten. I do things that I never did with Melissa. I don’t teach him the rules — it’s ”let’s go out and have dessert first.” It’s just the opposite. We do all the silly things that children you think would like to do.
You never did these things with Melissa?
Well, I was a parent with Melissa. You know, it’s a different thing. Of course you do it. And of course you get silly with your child. You know, we have a very good relationship. But with Cooper, it’s all about ”Don’t tell Mommy, let’s watch cartoons ’til four in the morning.”
How often do you get to see him?
I see him about every three weeks. And it’s great. And I talk to him a little bit on the phone, but he’s not a phone person yet. They’re in L.A. If they were in New York, I’d see him every day. We do all the special things. When he comes to visit me, of course he sleeps in Grandma’s bed. Of course there’s chocolate. It’s all that stuff. He comes back to Melissa running circles and screaming.
And I’m sure she has some words for you after that.
[In an indignant voice] ”Mother, I asked you not to…” But what is interesting is he’s had a great sense of humor. He loves to be funny.
I wonder where he gets that from…
I think it’s fabulous. And his first teacher said to Melissa the only negative thing in his report was that Cooper is very silly, they think he’s too silly. And I said, this could be very funny, this could be Larry David.