Some of my earliest and fondest memories of Joan Rivers come from reruns of “Hollywood Squares” and her appearances on “The Carol Burnett Show.” Her style instantly drew me in because of how fearless it was. There was something different about her–something that challenged societal standards.
Rivers’ thing wasn’t self-deprecation, by any means. It was more like she willingly shared her troubles in such a raw way that even the youngest, inexperienced of people could relate. She proved a force from her earliest stand-up, a match for any male comic in energy. Rivers truly introduced me to what a feminist embodied in that age, even before I knew the word.
One early bit that sticks out comes from when she stood on the stage of the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1967, Rivers spoke about the disparities between roles of men and women when dating. While several decades have since passed, her opinion remains true: “A man, he’s 90-years old. He’s a catch.” It appears we still have a way to go!
The reality is that women in comedy would not be where we are today without her–we wouldn’t be able to curse, be outlandish, or even hope for an even playing field with men. Her tell-it-like-it-is attitude was one that you seldom find anywhere–in life, onstage, or in television–and I loved every moment of it. Her brutal type of honesty was a breath of fresh air. She was different. A rare breed.
And sometimes people challenged her, but she wasn’t afraid to set anyone straight, from hecklers onstage right down to contemporary CNN interviewers. She was serious about her comedy and she welcomed no discussion away from that–and she would take no prisoners in case anyone forgot.
Were it not for Joan Rivers, comedy would not be where it is today–for men and women alike. For that, I thank Joan, with incalculable gratitude. You will truly be missed, Joan.