Thursday, September 04, 2014

Joan Rivers (1933-2014)

Joan Rivers, circa 1965.

I imagine that Joan Rivers left this plane as she would have wished, fresh from making another audience laugh, without knowing what hit her, and looking considerably less - or at least considerably other than her 81 years. David Del Valle reminds me that Joan was a fellow talking head of ours on an episode of A&E's BIOGRAPHY devoted to Vincent Price, which aired the week he died - so there was a connection there, which I'd forgotten. I admired her when she started out, when her comedy was based in things she had in common with her audience, when half the battle was getting laughs from the shock of recognition and when she let her vulnerability show. But as comedy changed, in its determination to reflect the world around it, she changed too, and the rewards that should have come with her success and longevity were not always forthcoming. She became more manically aggressive in her comedy and there was something about the grating, in-your-face caricature she became that, to me, was ripe with bitterness and a determination to outlast all those other bastards out of sheer cussedness. There is a poignant arc to her story, which is the story of a qualified artist surviving in a traditionally alpha male business, and I imagine it will be told and examined from more than one angle in years to come. She was not always my cup of tea, but she had my respect. She was one strong lady.

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