American comedy icon Joan Rivers (pictured) – the most talked about celebrity in the UK this week after being thrown off ITV’s Loose Women for her on-air expletives – is to host one of the UK’s leading theatre awards, Whatsonstage.com's very own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving decided by members of the public.

The comedienne and actress, due to make her West End acting debut in the autobiographical play, A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, will add Hollywood glamour to the launch of the ninth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards.

At the star-studded event on Friday 5 December 2008 at the Café de Paris in the heart of London’s Theatreland, Rivers will announce the audience-shortlisted nominations in 24 awards categories celebrating the best productions and performances from the 2008 theatregoing year. Online voting then opens to decide the eventual winners, which will be announced in mid-February 2009.

Kevin Wilson, Rivers’ UK publicist, said: "Joan is thrilled to be both starring in the West End and hosting the Whatsonstage.com Awards. In the USA, she's a regular commentator on the red carpet at the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes, asking the probing questions people really want to know from celebrities… such as who designed their dress and what work they've had done to their faces… and she's looking forward to a change to be on the other side of the awards as the actual host!"

The Whatsonstage.com Awards launch party coincides with the first week of Rivers’ Christmas engagement at the new Leicester Square Theatre with A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress. After a stint at the Edinburgh Festival in August, Rivers’ self-penned play has an initial London season from 29 August to 18 September, then returns from 2 December to 29 January prior to a Broadway transfer.

While on Loose Women last week, Rivers was talking about her annual Academy Awards red carpet interviews and – after issuing a “get ready to bleep” warning – referred to actor Russell Crowe as a “fucking shit”. She was removed from the show during an ad break and ITV issued an apology to viewers. Rivers, who, in her own words, is “not mellowing with age”, later issued a statement saying: “No one told me the TV show Loose Women was a reality show and that I would be voted off. It’s funny, off stage I hardly ever use profanity. My favourite four-letter word is shop.”

Terri Paddock, editorial director of Whatsonstage.com, said: “We’re so excited that the inimitable Joan Rivers will be bringing not only her Oscars glamour but also her unrivalled wit and sense of fun to the next Whatsonstage.com Awards. And she can say whatever she likes - we definitely won’t be using a bleeper!”

About the Whatsonstage.com Awards
All professional productions – from West End to Fringe - opened in London between 1 December 2007 and 30 November 2008 are eligible for nomination in the next Awards. Voting takes place online at and is strictly monitored, with only one vote accepted per person. Over 25,000 people voted in the last Awards, which culminated with a winners’ concert at the West End’s Lyric Theatre on 25 February 2008, when co-host James Corden famously snogged Newcomer of the Year winner Daniel Radcliffe on stage (See WOS TV, 28 Feb 2008). For full results and coverage from previous years, visit awards.whatsonstage.com.

For the first time, with the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, we’re making a limited number of sponsorship packages – normally reserved for corporate partners - available to private theatregoers. These include tickets to the invitation-only, industry-attended launch party at Café de Paris (not normally open to the public) as well as VIP passes to the winners’ concert next February. For more information on theatregoers’ sponsorship options, click here.

- by Terri Paddock