Long Live the Queen of Mean

Long Live the Queen of Mean

Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,9 September 2014

The Snap

I never really liked Joan Rivers. As a highly anxious person often on an overzealous quest for political correctness, Rivers made me cringe. A lot. Sure, many things she said were side-splittingly funny and she was in one of my most favoritest movies. But she also said some of the most appalling things ever uttered by a comedian; or probably more accurately, a comedienne. Because looking back at her career now, it is stupefyingly obvious that one of the main reasons she was so shocking was because she had a vah-jay-jay and not a wang. Her ambition, drive, frankness, gutsiness, chutzpah and ability to see the humor in the worst of situations really do mark her as one of the most amazing entertainers of our time.

The Download

There are few people who have pushed the limits quite like Joan Rivers. This daughter of Russian immigrant parents was born in 1933 and made her mark in an age where women were largely limited to stay-at-home-motherhood and sublimating their careers to their husbands’. She acted, wrote, produced and did stand-up for decades in an industry that favors the young and the new. Her razor sharp wit made her a fascinating person on either side of the interview table.

She constantly worked when many younger than her had reconciled themselves to a sedentary life of waiting around for something to happen. She didn’t wait. She made things happen. In the 24 years she sold her own line of clothing and jewelry on QVC, she raked in more than $1 billion. And she bounced back from the startling suicide of her husband by cracking jokes about his death.

Rivers told jokes about the Holocaust and abortion, pissed off a buttload of Palestinians and trolls with her words on the Israel-Gaza conflicts, proclaimed her hatred of children and fat people, ridiculed her own obsession with plastic surgery, and mercilessly mocked a motley crew of celebrities old and young. You either hated her or you adored her. Some of the people she skewered ended up becoming devoted friends and defenders, like Prince Charles and Nancy Reagan. People who got past the snark seemed almost powerless to resist her charm.

Late night hosts, Hollywood celebs, the fashion glitterati, Donald Trump and his hair, stand-up comedians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and people around the world have mourned Rivers’ loss publicly and privately. In death she has been lavishly praised as one of the most stellar entertainers ever, and this was by organizations and individuals who a few months earlier had descried her meanness and filter-less way of speaking.

Many pundits and commentators have described her as fearless but I think that does her a disservice. It’s not that she knew no fears; it’s that she realized the only way to take the fear out of something was to laugh at it like crazy. Get others to laugh at it with you and you can take away the thing’s power entirely and make it your bitch.


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Hat Tips:

ETCMSlateForbesNPRWashington PostCNNTime, Image Credit: Flickr

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