Comedy has lost another of its greats -- the incomparable Joan Rivers.
Aside from the shock of her passing, my heart is truly broken as I remember growing up watching Joan on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Now I never really thought Johnny was funny (his cornball humor seemed inane to me, even as a child), but Joan was simply BRILLIANT.
This tiny-but-tough New Yorker wasn't afraid to speak her mind during an era when women would rather play Betty Crocker than Caesars Palace, which was just unheard of. I was only a young kid from the Bronx, but Joan's hilarious, acid-tongued wit somehow fascinated me. Her delivery? Sublime. How great was it that she built a career out of making people laugh?
There's no question that Lucille Ball made everyone fall in love with female comediennes (who didn't love Lucy?), yet Joan was truly unique. She was a wild card. She was one-of-a-kind. She brought audiences to tears (including herself and Johnny) by saying what no other woman dared ... and it was refreshing. Liberating. Exhilarating. Joan was just what we needed.
Dishing about Edgar, her sex life, family -- no one or nothing was sacred. Even herself. Joan's self-deprecating sense of humor was beyond anything we'd ever heard. Brazen, brash, and without apology. Best part was, she showed us how to laugh at OURSELVES. Joan clearly harnessed her own brand of comedic power and controlled rooms with only her mouth. Talk about fabulous. I was hooked.
She made up her own rules and broke'em just as fast. Forging a path in what was once an exclusively patriarchal industry, Joan claimed "The Tonight Show" changed her life and later appeared regularly as Johnny's guest host.
After Fox offered Joan her own competing late-night talk show in 1986, her "mentor" refused to speak to her again. Aside from (IMO) his inability to be funny, now "Carnac the Magnificent" was scared of a woman? Where's the equality? What year was this? Someone clearly needed to check his misogynous shorts at the door and leave those caveman days behind.
Did any of that phase Joan? Hell no. She prevailed as the first woman to host her own late night talk show ... the rest is history. And that, my friends, is priceless because it illustrates the epitome of believing in yourself. Imagine the concept of absolutely nothing standing in a woman's way? It wasn't easy (or common) during her early career, but Joan not only imagined it, she made it happen.
It's not hard to see how Joan Alexandra Molinksy lured me to the "dark side" at an early age (not that I had any clue what that meant or how it would actually affect my life). She flaunted a brass pair without caring about upsetting network brass. Screw status quo and the powers that be -- her balls were bigger than any man's. I couldn't help but wonder if mine would ever grow that large
? (Jury's still out.)
Tolerating Johnny's nonsense wasn't easy, but if I caught Joan "in the act" it was all worth it. She lit up the room, was funny as hell, and had a BLAST doing it. She said what people thought and that's what made her successful. "We all need to get over it and move on." Indeed. Little did I know that Joan was blazing trails that would actually impact my life.
Joan, thank you for showing me the importance of laughter and a lifetime of inspiration. YOU are what makes a legend most ... and will definitely be missed but never forgotten. xoxo
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