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RIP Joan Rivers
September 4, 2014 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Joan Rivers has died at 81

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Melissa Rivers said moments ago in a statement. “She passed peacefully at 1:17 PM surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother. Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
posted by St. Peepsburg (165 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:29 PM on September 4


Variety has a nice writeup on her.

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posted by triggerfinger at 12:29 PM on September 4


Okay, summer of 2014, we get it. You can stop now.

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posted by Etrigan at 12:30 PM on September 4 [16 favorites]


Well, she never did that before.
posted by rocketman at 12:32 PM on September 4 [41 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 12:33 PM on September 4


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posted by From Bklyn at 12:33 PM on September 4


A pioneer woman standup comedienne at a time when such careers were difficult. According to the Variety writeup, she "also wrote material for Diller, Bob Newhart, Phil Foster, Zsa Zsa Gabor and even Topo Gigio".

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posted by blob at 12:33 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


HOOSKER DOO
posted by pxe2000 at 12:34 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


Can we talk?

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posted by NedKoppel at 12:34 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Well, she never did that before.
posted by rocketman


I don't know why rocketman, but that seems respectful.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:34 PM on September 4 [9 favorites]


"I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other[s]...."

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posted by Joey Michaels at 12:34 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Her very recent interview with Bianca Del Rio is absolutely hilarious.

Rest in peace.
posted by Mr. Six at 12:35 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


RIP Joan.
posted by spilon at 12:35 PM on September 4


I don't think I particularly loved Rivers' style but if I'm half as funny and half as busy at 81 then I'll be doing pretty well. She was a hell of a person.
posted by GuyZero at 12:35 PM on September 4 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm about done with this summer as well.

RIP, you funny *****.

I'll miss you.
posted by pjern at 12:36 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]




She's been so infuriating lately with the mean-spiritedness and such. But you know, long history, trailblazer, often hilarious in her prime. Sigh.

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posted by wabbittwax at 12:37 PM on September 4 [18 favorites]


“Listen, I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better. I’ve gone up, I’ve gone down, I’ve been bankrupt, I’ve been broke. But you do it, and you do it because we love it more than anything else. That’s why you’re doing it.”

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posted by Beardman at 12:37 PM on September 4 [23 favorites]


Thank you thank you, bondcliff! :)

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posted by Melismata at 12:38 PM on September 4


Seeing the words "resting comfortably" in my newsfeed this morning made me shake my head. I thought it would be tomorrow for some reason, though.

RIP, lady. You and Stritch should be knocking a few back and cackling madly right now.
posted by droplet at 12:38 PM on September 4 [6 favorites]


I can honestly say I both loved and hated her. Loved a lot of her comedy at times, hated her fashion cop persona.

So, concentrating on the positive.... She was wicked funny and pretty damn sharp at time.

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posted by edgeways at 12:38 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


Classic New York broad. I saw her everywhere I went, she truly was one of the hardest working women in show business. And she still took time to support charitable work, too.

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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:39 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


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posted by louche mustachio at 12:39 PM on September 4




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posted by Shmuel510 at 12:41 PM on September 4


Sharp until the end, kept poking until you blinked. Pity about the late-night talk show fallout, now so long ago.

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posted by ZeusHumms at 12:42 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Hah! Funny!!!
posted by markkraft at 12:43 PM on September 4


Always admired her grit and her sharing the stage with her daughter. Sorry that it ended this way...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:43 PM on September 4


The more I watch her work the more I think that she's one of the greatest comedians ever. To be funny and relevant for so many years - truly astonishing. Many many thanks for all the laughs, Joan.

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posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:43 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


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posted by Michele in California at 12:44 PM on September 4


She died as a result of a minor outpatient vocal cord procedure. That's a crappy way to go. She deserved a big exit. Or at least a proper one. Or, at the very least, one that she herself could have turned into a startling, lacerating, astonishing joke.
posted by maxsparber at 12:44 PM on September 4 [15 favorites]


She died as a result of a minor outpatient vocal cord procedure. That's a crappy way to go. She deserved a big exit. Or at least a proper one. Or, at the very least, one that she herself could have turned into a startling, lacerating, astonishing joke.

Like minor cosmetic surgery.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:46 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


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posted by arcticseal at 12:46 PM on September 4


What a life...what a career. Awards show red carpet coverage just won't be the same anymore.

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posted by SisterHavana at 12:49 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


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posted by smoothvirus at 12:49 PM on September 4


Here's a good Slate article on her:

Joan Rivers was relentless and filthy. She was also brutally honest about being a woman.

One of the videos linked in the article is a monologue from The Tonight Show and literally made me laugh out loud. God, she was funny.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:50 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


Shit, this is so sad. I really loved her wit.

After freaking out for months over what to buy my (gay) best friends for their (gay) wedding—they shop whenever they want/need stuff, so this was super hard, trust me— I finally found the perfect gift! Tickets to see Joan at the Chicago Theatre this November!

Fashion Police was so. much. fun. And I will miss her over-the-top-shocking, too-soon! jokes immensely. No one, ever, could do them as well as she did.

Any word on whether she actually left her body to Tupperware?
posted by heyho at 12:50 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


In 1959, a 17 year old Barbara Streisand and an actress named Joan Molinsky performed together in a play called Driftwood in which they played a couple.

Writer (and participant) in Candid Camera, protege of Carson, pioneering late night host, and Tony nominated Actress, Joan should be remembered as one of the most influential and important women to come out of the stand-up scene of the last 1960's.

Instead, she'll likely be remembered as someone who thrived on making mean-spirited comments about others appearance. It's a choice she made, but it's still a shame.

I wish there were more women in comedy today with the guts and versatility of the young Ms. Joan Molinsky, because she was a talented and ballsy broad.
posted by anastasiav at 12:50 PM on September 4 [11 favorites]




I'm old enough to remember her original act, and my annoyance at how much of it was stolen from the truly genius groundbreaker Phyllis Diller. (Yes, seriously) So a touch of schadenfreude that Phyllis lived 12 years longer than Joan, even if she died first.

Still, she was good enough for Johnny Carson to make her the first "permanent guest host" of The Tonight Show long ago, and I'll cede to Johnny's judgment (even though he never forgave her for quitting to do her own syndicated show that bombed). If you're not old enough to remember that part of her career (including the show that bombed), you missed the best.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:51 PM on September 4 [9 favorites]


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posted by cashman at 12:52 PM on September 4


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posted by Mr.Me at 12:52 PM on September 4


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posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:53 PM on September 4


Sheila O'Malley did a great post on Joan the other day.

Also, if anyone hasn't yet seen the "Louie" episode featuring Joan, no time like the present.

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posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:53 PM on September 4 [6 favorites]


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posted by Ber at 12:54 PM on September 4


When I was a kid and couldn't sleep, I'd listen to my parents watching Tonight Show from my bedroom. Johnny's monologues would evoke chuckles, but when Joan guest hosted my mother would ROAR with laughter.

Thanks to Johnny's anger (loved him too, but he could be an ass) I didn't get to experience Joan much when I was an adult.

But I do have a dirty habit of using QVC as background sound. And while her style was never mine, I'd watch whenever she was on. And some nights I would ROAR with laughter. At a shopping channel!

RIP, lady.
posted by kimberussell at 12:55 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


(even though he never forgave her for quitting to do her own syndicated show that bombed)

It was on Fox. In fact, it was the first show Fox aired, and a direct attempt to break NBC's (that is, Carson's) hold on late night.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I was always sad for her that Carson never spoke to her again after she struck out on her own.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:55 PM on September 4 [6 favorites]


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posted by chunking express at 12:57 PM on September 4


The documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is fantastic; it shows just how hard she worked every single day. My favorite scene took place (if I remember correctly) at a show at some casino up in the frozen tundra, when some guy called her out for making fun of deaf people. I am the last person who would defend that kind of thing, but the way the movie just stops as she catches her breath and figures out how to respond -- and how she winds her response on and on, and her rationale -- is something to behold.

Where are all of the old broads going? FEH.
posted by Madamina at 12:59 PM on September 4 [19 favorites]


Longreads has links to two 2010 interviews, Fresh Air and New York Magazine.

My mom had a Joan Rivers birthday card record, and it actually said my mother's name, "Happy Birthday, Betty!" on it. When I was little, I think I thought they were friends. And I loved being allowed to stay up and watch her on the Tonight Show.

A Piece of Work is streaming on Netflix, and I've never seen it. Not in the best mood for it, but I'll be glad to see it.
posted by gladly at 1:00 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


The documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is fantastic; it shows just how hard she worked every single day. My favorite scene...

My favorite scene was when she was showing her card catalog of jokes she's used—because she actually catalogued them all—and pulled one out, read it, and laughed at her own joke. She just did it so sincerely, you could tell she was tickled by it.
posted by heyho at 1:04 PM on September 4 [11 favorites]


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posted by tyllwin at 1:04 PM on September 4


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posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:06 PM on September 4


A Piece of Work is streaming on Netflix, and I've never seen it. Not in the best mood for it, but I'll be glad to see it.

It's pretty good, actually. It's neither too fawning or too harsh, it just gives you a sense of her as someone who worked very, very hard to accomplish what she did, even with several big setbacks along the way.
posted by briank at 1:06 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


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posted by paulus andronicus at 1:09 PM on September 4


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posted by Splunge at 1:11 PM on September 4


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posted by shoesietart at 1:12 PM on September 4


Oh man.

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I am going to miss her on Stern. She was always a fantastic guest.
posted by Benway at 1:13 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


It is too bad this was her next to last public statement, because she was fucking funny as hell and I loved Joan Rivers.
posted by josher71 at 1:14 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


. for who she was in her prime. She was hilarious then.

But no thank you to who she was for the past few years. May that profoundly unkind and mean spirit that became her main schtick die with her. You can be funny without being a bully.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:15 PM on September 4 [11 favorites]


Loved her standup stuff. Never cared at all for the whole red-carpet-fashion-review stuff, though.

Still...quite the talent and trailblazer.


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posted by Thorzdad at 1:17 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


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posted by lord_wolf at 1:18 PM on September 4


It surprised me to read that she was a Phi Beta Kappa Barnard graduate.
posted by Anitanola at 1:19 PM on September 4


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posted by brundlefly at 1:23 PM on September 4


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posted by rahnefan at 1:24 PM on September 4


Was hoping she could've made amends about not paying her writers a fair wage before she passed. Makes it all the more said, I think.

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posted by basicchannel at 1:26 PM on September 4


I'm gonna miss her. I used to tape the big awards shows E! red Carpet show just to see her, the last year or two of that were funny in a kind of "gosh, she's loosing her marbles" way, but then she was back as her witty self on Fashion Police.

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posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:26 PM on September 4


Sometimes you kill, sometimes you die. Goodnight Joan.
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posted by doctor_negative at 1:27 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Grim Reaper, you stay the hell away from Betty White, YOU HEAR ME!?
posted by symbioid at 1:30 PM on September 4 [10 favorites]


Abe Vigoda, unbelievably, still alive.
posted by phaedon at 1:31 PM on September 4 [10 favorites]


It is too bad this was her next to last public statement, because she was fucking funny as hell and I loved Joan Rivers.

Yeah, watching her decline in that area was both depressing and depressingly familiar to see. I also couldn't help but pity her obsession with maintaining some semblance of youthful looks, but at the same time I am filled with loathing and disgust for the circumstances which would lead such a strong, capable, and strong-willed woman (or indeed any woman ever) to feel that way.
posted by elizardbits at 1:31 PM on September 4 [10 favorites]


(even though he never forgave her for quitting to do her own syndicated show that bombed)

She had it on good authority (I think directly from Carson, but possibly just from his people) that he had no intention of naming her to be his replacement (almost certainly because of sexism). She had no future at the network after that, and she knew it. Taking the Fox show may have turned out to be a dumb move, but it was the smartest one she had available at the time.

This one hurts.

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posted by Mchelly at 1:32 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


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posted by SarahElizaP at 1:35 PM on September 4


When I was 3 years old I thought she and Wayland Flowers' Madame were the same person. Apparently I also thought Madame was not a puppet.
She has been around my entire life yet only one of us has aged.
If Heaven is a real thing, Im sure she's being shown to the dais even as we speak, while Carlin and Lenny and Johnny wait backstage, sharpening up their bits.

RIP you magnificent being.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:37 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Oh no.

She was a staple backstage at NYFW. Sometimes, Melissa would be with her. No matter how crowded it was, she'd enter and people would part before her like a wave. She traveled in a bubble of space -- no one wanted to crowd her. And that bubble would be ringed with people wielding cameras: photographers and paparazzi all trying to get shots of her. This petite larger-than-life person who just ruled the room while she was there. Everyone knew her.

This isn't unusual, per se. People like André Leon Talley and many designers have the same effect: they are not only well-known, but command respect from the room. For their accomplishments. Their personalities.

She had a rep for being nasty and sarcastic, but I had spoken with her quite a few times over the years and she was always gracious and friendly. Kind, even. Man, all things considered I was a nobody to her and all our interactions couldn't have been more than a handful of minutes in sum total and last September she actually remembered enough about me to ask how my kids were doing.

She was a trailbreaker and an icon and opinionated as hell, and dammit I can't believe how much I'll miss seeing her there.

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posted by zarq at 1:41 PM on September 4 [28 favorites]


Jimmy Fallon had her on the Tonight Show earlier this year!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:43 PM on September 4


She was not my favorite celebrity personality, but I do recognize her contributions towards culture: both the good ones and the bad. She made an impact and left a legacy in both comedy and fashion.

May she rest in peace.

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posted by Fizz at 1:49 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


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posted by LobsterMitten at 1:51 PM on September 4


Aww. I met her several times as a kid. The second or third was right after her husband had died and she was famously grief stricken. I was very concerned I wouldn't know what to say to her but convinced I was going to have to say something as we were sharing her table. Of course, she didn't expect that of me, and I spent a good bit of an extravagant gala event she could have spent with famous and/or interesting people parked next to her while she chatted to me about my school, my dress and my shoes just like anyone's mum, except louder, with more extravagant hand gestures, and while wearing a feather boa.

They broke the mold with that woman.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:58 PM on September 4 [34 favorites]


Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work made a late-coming fan of me. Each drawer of her joke card catalog is labeled with ranges like "A-Am," and then you see she has so many Tony Danza jokes that they have several of their own drawers. Still makes me laugh to think of it.
posted by fozzie_bear at 2:01 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


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posted by hush at 2:05 PM on September 4




There's no way to top encapsulating her character better than this small detail from a 2010 profile of her in New York magazine: She had an embroidered couch pillow with the motto DON’T EXPECT PRAISE WITHOUT ENVY UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:10 PM on September 4 [8 favorites]


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posted by drezdn at 2:13 PM on September 4


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posted by Small Dollar at 2:13 PM on September 4


Well I guess we can't talk after all.
posted by merelyglib at 2:16 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


It's going to be odd having a world without Joan Rivers in it.

I wasn't fond of her later critical shtick, but I am old enough to remember just how funny a lady she was.

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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:20 PM on September 4


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posted by Sheppagus at 2:21 PM on September 4




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posted by Foosnark at 2:27 PM on September 4


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"Can we tawk???" --Joan Rivers' doctor to his malpractice attorney
posted by Renoroc at 2:32 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Also, if anyone hasn't yet seen the "Louie" episode featuring Joan, no time like the present.

Seconded - I literally just watched that episode for the first time a few days ago when I was laid up in bed for a week and mainlining Netflix.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:33 PM on September 4


From her 2012 book:

"When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything's in your name,) I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action. I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don't want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don't want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing 'Mr. Lonely.' I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce's."
posted by Mchelly at 2:36 PM on September 4 [54 favorites]


What a loss.

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posted by MissySedai at 2:48 PM on September 4


Oh God, if Meryl Streep could actually do that, it would be the most glorious thing of all time, on several different levels.

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posted by Sticherbeast at 2:49 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


When I was 3 years old I thought she and Wayland Flowers' Madame were the same person

Well that's just impeccable logic, that's what that is.

It feels kind of like my favorite oft-offensive-but-I-love-her-with-all-my-heart-despite-it relative just died.

This rememberence by Julie Klausner What It Was Like to Work With Joan Rivers is great.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:51 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


My mom and I used to stay up late during the summers and watch Carson. She would sew and I was just thrilled to not have a bedtime. It came on at ten thirty in Chicago. Rivers was guest hosting, I think. My dad couldn't stand it and left the room. I understood that something was going on, could tell that Joan was way against the grain, but most of it was beyond me.

What I am totally clear on was that was the only time I've seen anyone blow ice cream out of their nostrils all over a sewing machine. Mom's chair went over backwards and I got all frantic and she was just laughing. And that should tell you something.

My mom is just a couple years younger, ill, and taking this really hard. She was one of those women who got harassed on the street until she was in her forties. I didn't know what to make of that when I was small.

I think many women Joan's age thought of things to say the evening after being harassed and wished their mouths were that fast.

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posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:10 PM on September 4 [19 favorites]


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posted by vibrotronica at 3:10 PM on September 4


So much respect for her.

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posted by hippybear at 3:23 PM on September 4


The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.

My best birth control now is just to leave the lights on.

My vagina is like Newark. Men know it's there, but they don't want to visit.
Next to that New York Magazine profile: "The 50 Best Joan Rivers Jokes"
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:35 PM on September 4 [8 favorites]


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posted by Sphinx at 3:42 PM on September 4


Also, with much respect --
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posted by GrammarMoses at 3:47 PM on September 4


Now she can be with Edgar again. She was never the same after his death even the cultivated public persona we knew...


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posted by chasles at 3:53 PM on September 4


She was one of a kind. The word "moxie" should have been invented for her. RIP, Joan.

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posted by dbiedny at 3:58 PM on September 4


She died as a result of a minor outpatient vocal cord procedure. That's a crappy way to go. She deserved a big exit. Or at least a proper one. Or, at the very least, one that she herself could have turned into a startling, lacerating, astonishing joke.

The two I've heard so far:

She died doing what she loved; getting surgery.

At least she's already embalmed.


I'm sure there will be more.

I always found Rivers to be a mean hateful and spiteful person. She made fun of people based on their appearance and how they dressed. Lest we forget she said Obama is gay, first lady is transgender.

I won't miss her at all. Now she's gone I have one less reason to mute my television.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:58 PM on September 4 [16 favorites]


Respect.

Joan was really a much much better version of the ladies in the town in which I grew up on Long Island. Joan had talent, was funny and was actually very nice and generous. Her sass was part of her act. I guess the ladies in my town were more like the Linda Richmond character on SNL.

Regardless, RIP.

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posted by 724A at 4:26 PM on September 4


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I will miss her. She was fearlessly funny. As someone with a big weakness for red carpet reviews, I also appreciate the way she turned all that into a true Event of its own.
posted by bearwife at 4:32 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Lest we forget she said Obama is gay, first lady is transgender.

I had a lot of issues with that as well, but I figured if Laverne Cox could stand to be in the same room as her after that, then I can let her be graceful for the both of us.
posted by elizardbits at 4:41 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


Joan Rivers may have been a mean-spirited, walking contradiction. If anything, she exposed herself to more ridicule than most comedians. By what? Staying in the limelight too long? That's probably it. God forbid our celebrities have flaws. Quick, replace them with someone else! What a business, indeed.

But she survived the death of her husband, worked all her life and had a relationship with her daughter. She never asked for my pity or forgiveness, and she took care of her family. That is more than a lot of human beings, especially entertainers, can say.

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posted by phaedon at 4:52 PM on September 4 [20 favorites]


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posted by tonycpsu at 5:55 PM on September 4


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posted by annsunny at 6:33 PM on September 4


I totally forgot that she was the narrator for The Adventures of Letterman on The Electric Company when I was a kid in the 70s.
posted by droplet at 6:34 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


Not a show I would ever think of watching but I happened on a great Entertainment Tonight piece on her the other day. It is amazing how she came back from the cancellation of her FOX show, losing her husband, and being blackballed by Carson.

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posted by Golden Eternity at 6:52 PM on September 4


I always found Rivers to be a mean hateful and spiteful person.

She was the first celebrity to give benefit nights for AIDS. She put her career at risk to do it, at a time when it was a disgusting gay disease nobody wanted to be associated with and she was guest hosting Carson. I have a hard time reconciling that with a mean and hateful person. At the same time, I recognise she had an exceeding long career and her comedy was often culturally tone-deaf in the last 10 years.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:01 PM on September 4 [17 favorites]


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posted by Peach at 7:04 PM on September 4


"I had the pleasure, once in a while over the last two decades, to interact with Joan Rivers in a professional capacity: she collected jewelry, of course, but also 19th century silverplate figural napkin rings. She was unfailingly pleasant, personable, engaging, friendly, funny and utterly without a trace of pretension. I remember once telling her how much, even as a kid, I enjoyed her “Mr. Phyllis” gay hairdresser routine and asked whatever happened to him. She said: “Oh, at my age I need a whole team of Mr. Phyllises.” “The Philistines?” I asked, and she erupted with that distintive breathless laugh. One of my proudest moments: I made Joan Rivers laugh. RIP, Ms. Rivers." -- my son on Facebook
posted by Anitanola at 7:08 PM on September 4 [17 favorites]


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posted by Artful Codger at 7:31 PM on September 4


She was not vicious; she was not spiteful; she was a comedian of distinction, and if she had been male, her brand of humor would not be seen that way. But as she was a woman, she was twelve times funnier.
posted by Peach at 7:32 PM on September 4 [7 favorites]


But as she was a woman, she was twelve times funnier.

And in order to be successful as a female comic back in '60s, she had to be.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 8:07 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]



posted by XMLicious at 8:08 PM on September 4




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posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 PM on September 4


Yeah, the interview I linked to hints at her standing up for gay people when it wasn't cool to do so. I wouldn't agree with her politics but she was good people, nonetheless.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:19 PM on September 4


She was not vicious; she was not spiteful

I'm not sure I buy that. It seems she was a lovely person in private. I didn't find her funny as a kid, so I never really followed her career, and I don't know if I would have found her funnier with a more mature comedy palate. But here is a quote from Crikey's obit of her:

When DJ Robin Quivers used an award speech to tearfully recount abuse by her father, Rivers remarked, "you should have been glad of the attention. I saw you backstage, bitch, you looked like a mudslide"

That sounds pretty spiteful and vicious to me.
posted by misfish at 9:24 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


When DJ Robin Quivers used an award speech to tearfully recount abuse by her father, Rivers remarked, "you should have been glad of the attention. I saw you backstage, bitch, you looked like a mudslide"

That sounds pretty spiteful and vicious to me.


Ms. Quivers would appear to disagree:

"Joan Rivers was a mentor and a friend. Can't believe we won't be seeing her again. What a life."
posted by The Gooch at 9:34 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I pretty much hate that joke, but the Crikey piece really misrepresents the timing of the comment. Quivers has spoken a lot about her abuse. But the quote came as part of Joan's comeback speech (or whatever you call it) during her Comedy Central roast which Quivers was taking part of.

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On a separate defense of Joan argument, I really don't understand a common thread I've seen pop up online today in discussions about her. Many people saying they really "used to like her back in the day" but she just started saying mean, shallow, nasty things. But in reality, that was Rivers act from pretty much day 1. It's just that back in the day she was saying mean, shallow nasty things about herself. Which is, I guess, somehow more okay to laugh at.

I guess I know why people react that way. But it's kinda bullshit.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:40 PM on September 4 [9 favorites]


I didn't know much about her and watched her documentary on Netflix mentioned upthread tonight. She reminded me of my grandmother - always working. Always hustling. She did not want to be still for one moment. She had a lot of spunk and a lot of desire to just pound the pavement. "I'm not a comedian. I'm an actress who plays a comedian."

.
posted by sockermom at 10:38 PM on September 4


.

Thanks, funny girl.
posted by On the Corner at 12:32 AM on September 5


Considering how showbiz tends to sideline female talent the minute they turn 40 it's a testament to Joan that she never let anyone forget she existed for 50 odd years.
posted by PenDevil at 1:18 AM on September 5 [6 favorites]


.
posted by Gelatin at 4:27 AM on September 5


She was not vicious; she was not spiteful; she was a comedian of distinction, and if she had been male, her brand of humor would not be seen that way. But as she was a woman, she was twelve times funnier.

It doesn't seem to be a perception problem among her fellow comedians, who seem to respect and mourn Rivers. I wonder why the general public can appreciate Don Rickles act, but Joan Rivers gets labeled vicious?
posted by gladly at 5:25 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


She died doing what she loved; getting surgery.

At least she's already embalmed.
I think she would have loved those, actually.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:32 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


.
posted by lester at 6:24 AM on September 5


She was not vicious; she was not spiteful; she was a comedian of distinction, and if she had been male, her brand of humor would not be seen that way. But as she was a woman, she was twelve times funnier.

I have the same problems when men do this shit. That "Blackwell's worst dressed" list or whatever it is called is just some asshole standing around criticizing people for how they dressed and looked.

Many people saying they really "used to like her back in the day" but she just started saying mean, shallow, nasty things. But in reality, that was Rivers act from pretty much day 1. It's just that back in the day she was saying mean, shallow nasty things about herself. Which is, I guess, somehow more okay to laugh at.

Well, I didn't like her back in the day either, but even by your observations I see no conflict in these positions. When a comedian makes fun of fat people and she's fat I still cringe, since I know there's a lot of self-loathing and cultural baggage going into that, but I have less of a problem with this than when some skinny person makes fat jokes. So if you want to have self-depricating humor, fine. You want to make fun of others, well, I'd put some things off limits if you don't want to be seeing as mean a hateful. I wouldn't make fun of the handicapped, I wouldn't make fun of people's appearances, I wouldn't make fun of their race, religion, or gender. Rivers did all of this.

Actually, it's not even the making fun that I have a problem with. It's that she does so at the expense of these groups. She's laughing at, not with.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:31 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


That "Blackwell's worst dressed" list or whatever it is called is just some asshole standing around criticizing people for how they dressed and looked.

It was. Blackwell died in 2008 and his list died with him, thankfully.

It spawned others, though. Huffington Post literally has a "Wost Dressed" section.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on September 5


I knew he died. Joan and Melissa carried on the schtick. It's also only one example of her ingrained meanness.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:51 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Just as a disclaimer: I have tremendous respect for her work ethic and her ability to solder on in the face of some tragedies that would have flattened other people. The fact that she engaged in so much philantrophy without drawing attention to herself makes me respect her all the more. Not all her work was to my liking, but I enjoyed some of her output.

That said, I did want to respond to this:
Many people saying they really "used to like her back in the day" but she just started saying mean, shallow, nasty things. But in reality, that was Rivers act from pretty much day 1. It's just that back in the day she was saying mean, shallow nasty things about herself. Which is, I guess, somehow more okay to laugh at.
cjorgensen has talked about this at length...even though the target of many of her zingers were more powerful than she was, the way she went about mocking them was a textbook study of punching down. Using a slur to describe Michelle Obama or implying that Lena Dunham developed diabetes due to her "morbid obesity" is a little extreme, even for an insult comic.

While I think she got more heat for her comedy because she was female, she was also much more visible in a way that her peers were not. While you have to go to the Poconos or Atlantic City to see Don Rickles, Joan made herself accessible to younger audiences through her podcast, her TV shows on E, the documentary, etc. Rickles doesn't get the same criticism for his comedy because he's seen as a relic, where Joan was working to the very end. And while that was great for her fans and for other comedians, it did make her an easier target (for want of a better phrase) than many of her peers.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:14 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]




She may be dead, but she still looks Fabulous!!!
posted by eggtooth at 9:36 AM on September 5




My distaste for Rivers -- trailblazer for women in comedy that she was for many years, yes -- was that in the past decade or so, she seemed too often to take aim at the powerless as much (and possibly more) as the powerful. As pxe2000 says, she punched down, not up. It's vicious when male comedians do it (hello, Dennis Miller), and it's vicious when female comedians do it, too.

It's indisputable (and awesome) that she was a defender of gay rights and raised money for AIDS research, etc., at a time where very few entertainers were doing that. But she certainly didn't seem interested in the past decade or so in extending her compassion to, say, Palestinian children. Further, I think it's worth remembering what happened when she made jokes about Ariel Castro's victims earlier this year.

Now, I don't think the jokes themselves were the primary problem -- I mean, tasteless and mean-spirited and not particularly funny, yes, and I think it was gross that she made them. But what was really revealing, to me, is how Rivers responded when the women's lawyers spoke out to say that her jokes were actually compounding the women's trauma. (And let's take a moment to consider the kind of extreme PTSD that you would be enduring after having been kidnapped, raped, and tortured for a decade.) Instead of displaying any genuine empathy for the women, or expressing any genuine regret that she had contributed in a small way to their suffering, she doubled down.

Now, maybe the Joan Rivers of the '60s or '70s or '80s would have reacted differently. Maybe she would have had the humility and grace to find a way to make the connection between her own sufferings and struggles and the sufferings and struggles of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus. But in 2014, when given the chance to mitigate just a tiny bit of cruelty in the world, she most certainly did not. That will always be the final impression I have of her.
posted by scody at 12:08 PM on September 5 [12 favorites]


But in 2014, when given the chance to mitigate just a tiny bit of cruelty in the world, she most certainly did not. That will always be the final impression I have of her.

In the year that she was 81, an age when many people are suffering Alzheimer's and generally losing their marbles. In the year that she finally gave up the ghost.

Okay, shitty thing to do. But I don't think I will let it weigh too heavily in the column of how I judge her.
posted by Michele in California at 12:19 PM on September 5


Sometimes on the Facebook page for my knitting blog, I do obit posts which feature a photo of the departed celebrity knitting or wearing a knit with accompanying text in which I touch upon the interesting aspects of their lives and, in the case of a tragic death, a few thoughts as to its especially grievous nature. I was undecided as to whether to do an obit post for Joan Rivers, since, at least according to Google, she doesn't seem to have been a knitter or even much given to wearing sweaters. However, after reading the Go Fug Yourself tribute to Rivers today, which reflected on the Fug Girls' own experiences in working with Rivers and credited the very existence of Go Fug Yourself to Joan Rivers' influence, I realized that I also owed something to Rivers. Go Fug Yourself was in turn one of my sources of inspiration for creating my own blog, and the kind of entertaining and, er, somewhat caustic knitwear reviews I try to do are very much a product of the cultural zeitgeist Rivers had such a hand in creating. It's as good an illustration as any of how Rivers had a bigger impact on us than we'll ever realize, and we won't see her like again.
posted by orange swan at 1:05 PM on September 5 [3 favorites]


She was born in 1933. She blazed trails and fought fights for 70 years. If she didn't rise to the occasion for the interval between 70 and 80, I don't think that failure is her legacy. YMMV.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:06 PM on September 5 [8 favorites]


"One of the most consistently subversive things about Rivers is her level of commitment to a spur-of-the-moment prank. I have seen her pull off dozens of them over the years. Once, coming out of Pat Wexler’s office, where she goes for her Botox and filler, she crawled on her hands and knees into a waiting room full of socialites and models and, screwing up her face to resemble a stroke victim, moaned out of one side of her mouth, “Look what she did to me!” Another time, she played a practical joke on Marjorie Stern and some unsuspecting diners at Sarabeth’s: “It’s like three weeks into the Bernie Madoff thing,” says Rivers. “I get there first, and there are two tables to pass before you get to our table. And one was like six Jewish ladies and the other was two Jewish couples. You could just tell. Very New York people. I grabbed the waitress and I say, ‘Please don’t say her name, because Mrs. Madoff doesn’t want people to know it’s her.’ I said it loud enough for the other tables to overhear it.” Marjorie, who has a Ruth Madoff aspect, takes the story from here. “I walk in and they are all staring at me. And I look over at Joan to see what the problem is and she says, ‘Ruthie! Sit here!’ At which point the entire place is stunned speechless. Forks suspended in midair.”

“They hissed at her,” says Rivers, crippled with laughter. When I remind her that there are six Jewish ladies who now think she is friends with Ruth Madoff, she yells, “I know!” and laughs even harder."
posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on September 5 [6 favorites]


In the year that she was 81, an age when many people are suffering Alzheimer's and generally losing their marbles. In the year that she finally gave up the ghost.

Okay, shitty thing to do. But I don't think I will let it weigh too heavily in the column of how I judge her.


Except she wasn't suffering from Alzheimer's. She was just mean. Every single time she was on TV I cringed in the exact same way I do when there's some Fox News bigot on. I wondered, I wonder what the next incredibly ignorant and bigoted thing out of her mouth will be, and I guess to this end she seldom disappointed.

If she didn't rise to the occasion for the interval between 70 and 80, I don't think that failure is her legacy. YMMV.

Obviously it does. It's also a bit revisionist to pretend like she started this shit in her 70s.

Now she's dead though, so I guess it's time to start pretending like she was an actually good person. People keep talking about how heaven is getting another clown. I think hell is finally getting someone that can teach the devil how to be mean.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:38 PM on September 5 [3 favorites]


Just to recap from this thread alone:

She made fun of people's appearances, handicapped, transgender, multiple rape victims, victims of pedophilia (more than once), victims of genocide, homosexuals, and beats kittens. Yeah, she was a stand-up woman alright.

If she'd been a metafilter member she'd have been banned a long time ago.

p.s. (I made up the part about the kittens.)
posted by cjorgensen at 6:45 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


She made fun of people's appearances, handicapped, transgender, multiple rape victims, victims of pedophilia (more than once), victims of genocide, homosexuals, and beats kittens. Yeah, she was a stand-up woman alright.

No, she was a stand-up comedian. She was good at it, too.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:49 PM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with "laughing at." That's pretty much comedy.

She tended to recycle some of her jokes at the expense of easy targets of late, though. But then she was 81 and had a regular program to produce.
posted by Peach at 7:19 PM on September 5


No, she was a stand-up comedian. She was good at it, too.

I think you meant "comedienne." This is also how she defended herself and why she wouldn't say she was sorry about mocking kidnapped and raped women. I've said it before, one of the few things I've taken to heart, one of the lessons I've learned from metafilter is than maybe, just maybe, you can make a funny rape joke, but that's a pretty fucking low bar, so maybe, just maybe, aim higher?

Too far.

Ah, I missed that she made holocaust jokes.

Why We Needed to Take Joan Rivers Less Seriously

This last link is your argument expounded and I still find it lacking.

Let's add slut shaming to the list of things she makes fun of. It's pretty much impossible to go back through her history and find a time when she wasn't an ill tempered grumpy meanie.

Seriously, next time you feel obligated to call someone out for the behavior you are excusing in Rivers please look in the mirror first. Decide if you are a hypocrite. It's alright if you are. If your defense is that she's a comedian or comedienne then your first question when others say this same shit should be, "Was she/he trying to be funny?"
posted by cjorgensen at 8:22 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Seriously, next time you feel obligated to call someone out for the behavior you are excusing in Rivers please look in the mirror first.

...boy, are you trying to call out the wrong person. I worship at the altar of George Carlin. I adore Gilbert Gottfried. I consider the Internet's tendency to jump on comedians for things they say in the course of their acts to be corrosive. I believe humor is important, and I do not believe there are any subjects that are sacrosanct. If you Google "on offensive humor," the first page of search results contains an essay I've written on this very subject.

You can disagree with my position all you want, but if you think I'm not consistent about it, you don't know me at all.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:11 PM on September 5


cjorgensen, we get it. You're not convincing anyone new at this point -- at least, not convincing them of what you want to.
posted by Etrigan at 1:58 AM on September 6 [4 favorites]


Joan Rivers wasn't a saint and we don't need anybody here in 2014 to copy her style. But she certainly was a unique and extraordinary person of her time and imo it's super-cool to have existed during part of the time that she did.

.
posted by glhaynes at 2:19 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


[Yeah, an obit thread is not a trial of someone's life, to be argued until the jury makes a decision, and just generally not a debate to be won or lost. Comments don't have to be hugs and flowers, and folks are free to say they didn't like or approve of the deceased, but it's enough to state your opinion without staging a campaign, and it's okay if other people don't totally agree with you. ]
posted by taz at 2:19 AM on September 6 [5 favorites]




Sady Doyle: Joan Rivers Should’ve Always Punched Up

Also, a brief series of tweets from Sady Doyle that seemed very on point to me:
>: Joan was way stronger when she didn't lean on hack -isms. This random web outtake made me laugh for a full minute: pic.twitter.com/2zystE2r8F
>: That's mean, but mean in a way that's absurdist & specific to the target. It works. And it's transgressive for women to be inventively mean.
>: And -- PRETENTIOUS JOKE EXPLAINER ALERT -- the joke also kind of sums up specific, key things about Britney's persona.
>: In one sentence, you get (a) she's nice, (b) she's disempowered -- has to apologize to everyone around her -- and (c) she's not a genius.
>: So why a woman who could do that IN THE OUTTAKES would rely on easy "edginess" like "that cis person seems transgender," well, IDK.
posted by Lexica at 9:42 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


I had no idea she gave Mike Rowe one of his early breaks.
posted by The Gooch at 9:55 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]


"Joan Rivers’ request for a sea burial was denied on the grounds that there were already too many plastic bags in the ocean.”

- Jennifer Matsui


.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:00 PM on September 7


I was listening to an interview with Arsenio Hall where he was talking about how Joan Rivers gave him his first big break too. (He put her on the Tonight Show, and he took over her show after she had a falling out with Fox.)
posted by chunking express at 7:15 AM on September 8


Her comedy as of late was a mixed bag. I loved her early stuff. However, I respect and admire how she worked her way to the top and never gave up despite some big set backs. For that, she's amazing.
posted by stormpooper at 12:37 PM on September 8


Has anyone found or posted a transcript to Howard Stern's eulogy? I would love to read it.
posted by Mchelly at 1:03 PM on September 8




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