“When I die, 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.”
People who have an off-the-wall humor, are non deferential, joke about completely inappropriate stuff and are politically incorrect enough to make the stiffest people twitch uncomfortably, make me laugh the most. Woody Allen and Billy Connolly are two of those people, Robin Williams was another, but Joan Rivers stood out the most for me because she was a woman.
I’ve always had a latent ADHD lack of filter in my psychy, (which gets me into a lot of trouble) and that means I have an unhealthy, un-empathetic mean streak at times, particularly when it comes to humor.
That’s why I loved Joan Rivers.
I could never be as funny as Joan Rivers because I’m too sensitive to the feelings of my audience, and to personal criticism; and more importantly I’m not a risk taker. To be as successfully funny as Joan Rivers you have to take risks, put your life, passion and beliefs on the line, bare your soul and develop an exceptionally thick skin.
Perhaps the plastic surgery helped Joan more than we know.
Because when you take that level of risk, you alienate as many people as you make your friends and you have to be strong for that.
Joan Rivers paved the way, not only for female comedians, but for women in general. She made it okay to to be a ballsy, cussing, strong female in the public eye and she wasn’t afraid to discuss those awkward topics that women had to skirt around in the previous decades, such as gynaecology, death, suicide, marriage and daring to diss your husband in a time when women were meant to still be grateful to the opposite sex.
She took women off that fifties pedestal of being the thinking man‘s trophy to becoming ‘thinking women’.
Moreover, she demonstrated grit, determination and the resilience needed to succeed in what was (and still is) very much a male profession, even when her personal life was ripped apart by the very public suicide of her husband.
Joan Rivers could joke about feminism, religion and men because she had been through the mill and had experienced sexism and discrimination first-hand. But the great thing about Joan was that she survived it to come out the other side with her blisteringly sharp wit and ambition still intact. She was a female icon who was passionate about her job and happy to admit that she lived to work, yet in spite of being a hard-working, single mother, she still managed to cultivate an unbreakable relationship with her daughter.
That’s the ultimate dream for many women – to somehow get the balance right and forge both a successful personal and professional life.
Her honest causticity meant she was often accused of being too personal and insensitive, but many of her critics overlooked the self-deprecating humor she used for the purposes of satire and how she took it on the chin almost as much as she dished it out. Not that she cared what they thought, anyway; she refused to be silenced or put in a box and she never apologized for her words or for who she was.
It would be facile to say that men took her comments personally because she was a woman. It was much more likely that they took offence because she was so brutally astute and perceptive. She certainly had a tongue that was feared and revered in Hollywood and she became a trailblazer for future female comedians.
I loved Fashion Police – partly for the clothes and the decadent excess but mostly for Joan’s quick wit and ability to say what we were all thinking. I’m so glad Joan got her wish and didn’t go from some horribly debilitating terminal disease played out in the public, and we can remember her for her last witty comments about what-not-to-wear.
Criticised for being vulgar and insensitive, Joan proved that although women might have to work doubly as hard as men and need double the thickness of skin to succeed, they can make it being themselves. They don’t have to compromise their ideals, wear a mask or sleep their way to the top. She also proved that women can have a career based on talent rather than looks and youth.
When I die, I hope I make as big a mark as Joan Rivers in terms of personal and professional success.
Judging by the success of her relationship with her now grieving daughter Melissa, her career and the devastation of her close circle of friends, Joan proved that women can have it all, after all.