Comedy, true, pure comedy is so important to me. Moreover it’s important to all of us, whether you want to be okay with that or not. Someone who agrees with me on this in every capacity is none other than Joan Rivers, the snarky broad from the red carpet known for ripping apart the appearance of any and every other human being. Because that is the contradiction of Joan Rivers in my life. I don’t even find her to be that funny, but I do whole-heartedly agree with her philosophy of comedy. I don’t, however, agree with a lick of what she believes about physical appearance.
Joan Rivers. In two parts.Honestly, I don’t know if either of these images are pre-surgery Joan. That’s not really the point. It’s vaguely the point though. She’s a pretty lady. There’s not a doubt about that. Joan Rivers was a pioneer in comedy for attractive women. In a lot of ways she paved the way for your Tina Feys and Amy Poehlers and Ellen Degenereses. She was the first woman to host a late night talk show, with Johnny Carson as her first guest. She even wrote for the Tonight Show.
What she really did though, what she believes about comedy is this. Comedy is one of our single-greatest mechanisms for dealing with life’s greatest tragedies. She is often criticized for being cold for that very reason. At the risk raging in a feministic way, I believe that to be partly due to her gender. Men can get away with saying a great deal more than women, because even in this modern world we live in women must sustain some sort of feminine sensibility. Making jokes about 9/11 or suicides or diseases is apparently not conducive to painting the picture of femininity.
When Ms. Rivers’ husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide on May 15, 1987, Joan was cracking jokes shortly after. If for no other reason than to break the tension and get herself out of her own head. Please, don’t misunderstand me in this. It’s exactly what I do. She wasn’t cold about it. It’s how she had to deal with it, and she was broken-hearted by the death, by the selfishness, by the actions of Fox she believes led to it all.
She’s been heckled by live audiences for her “cruel” sense of humor. But at the heart of it all what Joan Rivers wants people to believe about comedy is that in the world’s bleakest hour it can be the only thing that brings us all together. Something I cannot remotely fault her for. In fact, all I can do is applaud her. And if you get down into the mess of Joan Rivers’ life you’ll see it riddled with tragedies that she continues to rise above.
What I do find disagreeable about Joan Rivers is exactly what you see. Her passion for comedy, and despite popular belief the way that she does care for people, particularly her daughter, is admirable. In all of that though she forgot to laugh at age.
At 78 years old she’s a shadow of what she looked like. And while being comfortable in one’s own skin is important, something about reshaping that skin lacks the pursuit of humor of which she speaks so profoundly. I do not want to say she does not have the right to do whatever she wants to maintain her appearance, but where’s the humor in that. Yes, we can all make jokes and she can make jokes about all of her surgeries to maintain the appearance of her choosing. But old people are funny. Old people look funny. What’s better than the opportunity to let your comedy age with your face?
Much of stand-up comedy is the observational variety, which is, granted quite funny. But there’s something unsettling about the idea of not observing an idea or an event or something in whole, but taking it down to the individual. Outside of the self. Joan Rivers does a fine job of ripping herself apart for the sake of a laugh, but her main focus at this point in her career is ripping apart anyone else. And maybe she’s earned that, but all that says about women in comedy, pioneering women in comedy, is that when you get down in it women are still caught up in their appearance. And that, dear friends, is not the direction women in comedy need to continue to face.
A change of pace without the constant change of face. Risk it. Get old. Get wrinkled. Get fat. Don’t let the joke go because you refuse to let yourself go.