Let’s be honest. Starting out in stand-up comedy is tough work. You have five minutes (if you are lucky) to get a roomful of strangers to find you funny enough to not tear you to shreds. Doing stand-up comedy as a woman only adds to the difficulty. This is the point at which I respect the recently deceased Joan Rivers. She started out in the mid-1960s, at a time when the only other prominent female comedians were Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, and Lily Tomlin. Much of her humor centered around poking fun at herself as a graduate from Barnard (one of the Seven Sisters colleges) doing stand-up comedy because that was not something that “nice girls” did.
And then something happened to her along the way. Maybe it was her break with Johnny Carson, or the failure of her late-night talk show, or the suicide of her husband. But she shifted from the nice girl in pearls cracking wise at herself to insult comedy turned toward other people, often based solely on their appearance, and without any provocation on their part. That is the point at which I have no love lost for her.
The jester’s role is to point out the foibles of humanity. To allow us to laugh at public figures who have done or said something foolish or silly. In that sense, jokes at other people are perfectly acceptable (and let’s face it, Jon Stewart would not be where he is today were it not for prominent people providing him with endless fodder). But Rivers’ “fuck’em if they can’t take a joke” attitude toward the targets of her insults for having the *gall* to merely exist rankles me to no end. That is not making jokes at the expense of the foolish. It is bitter cruelty.
My beloved Himself is an actor. I have told him, flat out, that if he ever gets to the point where he would be walking the red carpet, he can rent a date for the evening. I won’t do it. And a big part of that has always been because of Joan Rivers. I am painfully aware that I would be the perfect target for her brand of red-carpet humor, not just because of my weight, but of course because of the visible skin issue. I struggle enough with my own insecurities about it already — having them confirmed in front of millions of viewers for the laughs is nothing short of turning me into little more than the punchline for one of Rivers’ “can we talk…” insults.
And so, Joan, I salute you for your start in the business. But if you think for one minute that I should find your mocking people simply for existing is remotely funny and that I just need to lighten up? Fuck that. And by the way? Fuck you.