Thursday, September 04, 2014

Joan Rivers (1933-2014)

Can we all just agree, Hollywood, that we've lost enough major names this year?  I know that 2009 is generally considered the Summer of the Dead Celebrity, but honestly, I don't know that I've ever felt like so many legends have left us as have this year, and sadly we add another name to that list today.  Joan Alexandra Molinsky, known to the world as Joan Rivers, died today at the age of 81.

Rivers was one-of-a-kind, and a taste not enjoyed by everyone.  Frequently bawdy and constantly willing to go to places that comedians, and particularly female comedians, feared to tread, she was a pioneer and once pointed out that despite her fame, part of the excellence she achieved was not being "part of the party."  Unlike most comedians who suddenly were incapable of making fun of their newfound celebrity friends, Rivers was always edgy, always had a sense of danger about her-you never knew where she was going to go next.

She was also an extremely honest personality.  She frequently talked about her struggles with setbacks in her career and her strive to stay relevant.  She could make you laugh about a celebrity you loved, and make you cringe over a celebrity you hated.  "It" is a hard to define quantity, but Joan Rivers might have been "it" personified-this was a woman that was bound to be a star, by any means necessary.

And thankfully she did it by making us laugh.  Let's not let the reality shows and the Celebrity Apprentice fool us-she was a comic legend far before she descended into the cable nebulus of lesser beings.  She famously was denied the Tonight Show, and then went on to become the first woman to get her own late night talk show (to this day, this is shamefully rare and only a few women can dare to claim they have done the same).  She infamously was banned by Carson and had to wander the dark of a Hollywood that adored the King of Late Night, despite him being like a father to her.  She pioneered the Red Carpet treatment of the Oscars that Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic have used to further their stardom.  She even was a Tony nominee, persistently complaining about how she lost to Diana Rigg (she wasn't afraid to want the win, which she did at least get at the Emmy Awards).

And though she's gone, she's certainly going to live on in the acts of hundreds of women who idolized her and walked in her tread.  Roseanne Barr, Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, and Kathy Griffin wouldn't be where they are today were it not for Joan Rivers, and for that we should all be thankful.  Joan actually got my favorite line of hers at Griffin's expense.  She was being roasted by Comedy Central, and Kathy was the roast master.  Rivers got up to the podium without missing a beat, slapped Griffin, and said, "Kathy Griffin-you stole my act, you stole my gays, and you stole the face of the Burger King."  Griffin howled with laughter, just like the rest of us did whenever Joan was at the podium.

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