Joan Rivers died last week, as I’m sure you’ve heard. She had gone in for what was supposed to be a minor outpatient procedure, but went into cardiac arrest in the middle of it. She leaves behind a daughter, a grandson, and scores of family, friends, and fans who cared about her.
It sucks. I really liked her. She was one of the few comics around nowadays that you could say was a true trailblazer. Not just for women in comedy, but for everyone in the entertainment business. She went places onstage that few dared to go, and made many of us laugh and feel a little better about the everyday tragedies that happen in life. Up until the very end, she was kicking down doors and overturning conventions. I respected her so much for that. I wish she had more time to do it.
Was Joan Rivers perfect? Hell no. She made me laugh for decades of my life, but she pissed me off for just as long. Sometimes she could come across as mean-spirited, and she didn’t always handle some of her controversies well. Then again, she was a comic, and it was her job to cross the line occasionally. That’s how we figure out where the line is.
Personally, I wasn’t a fan of her desire to wear fur, though she apparently stopped buying it, and even began working with PETA. I can’t sit here and say I’m perfect, but I do try to be mindful of the suffering of animals. I could never flaunt wearing foxes or whatever else around my neck as a fashion statement. That sickens me. Had I been in Miss Rivers’s inner circle, I’d like to think I could have gone to her and, echoing her own famous line said, “Joan, can we talk?”
Some have said her death was karma for statements she made recently about Palestinians. That she had it coming, and is burning in hell right now. I’ve had people personally reply to comments I’ve made about my love of Joan Rivers to tell me life support was wasted on her. I disagree with them, but of course they are free to feel any way they would like. I, too, am free to feel the way I like. And the message I have for those folks is simply this:
Go look up the word “hypocrite” in the dictionary. You don’t get to wish death on someone, or dance on their grave, all the while claiming some kind of moral superiority. You don’t. It doesn’t work like that. Whether you hate Joan Rivers because she dissed your favorite actress’s dress, or because her comments about Palestinian casualties in Gaza were dreadful, it’s a shitty thing to do. It makes you look like a shitty person.
We’ve got to be better people to one another. You don’t have to like Joan Rivers, or think she was some kind of saint. Sometimes I flat out hated her guts. But if we really want a better, more polite society, we each have to take personal responsibility for it. We have to stop being assholes. We can acknowledge the ugly things people say, and even fervently disagree. But being openly gleeful over another human being’s death? That does little more than make you look like a heartless fool. Miss Rivers could have done better to learn this lesson herself.
Maybe we should all just learn to laugh a bit more, too. I’d like to think that Joan Rivers thought so. I know I do. I don’t believe that things happen for a reason, but I do believe you can take a lesson even from tragedies. If there’s anything I’ll take from her death, it’ll be that.
Thanks, Joan. You made me laugh and pissed me off for a couple decades of my life, and I’m grateful. I’ll miss ya.