Cult of Outrage: Joan Rivers Never Stopped Fighting
Comedy legend Joan Rivers died this week after complications from a routine endoscopy sent the 81 year-old into cardiac arrest. After spending a week in a medically-induced coma, Joan Rivers died Thursday, according to ABC News, “surrounded by family and close friends.”
Rightfully, everyone is honoring her after her passing. She was a trailblazer for women comedians. She was the first, and at the time of this writing remains the only, woman to host a late-night talk show on network television. Still, even with all of the posthumous accolades now, Rivers wasn’t afforded the respect an icon of her generation deserved.
Rivers was always embroiled in controversy that other older comedians were not. Don Rickles, the male comedian Rivers was often compared to, is forgiven for anything he says. Unlike Rickles, Rivers would say controversial things and be criticized harshly.
Take this clip from The Young Turk’s YouTube show from April 2, 2013. In the clip, the two hosts take Rivers to task for “fat shaming” Adele at the Oscars on Twitter (to make a Spanx joke).
On Sunday night, you could easily pick Adele’s Oscar statuette out of a lineup. It was the only one wearing Spanx.
— Joan Rivers (@Joan_Rivers) February 26, 2013
As is typical, they point to Rivers’ own appearance and host Cenk Uygur called her “an ass.” In typical Rivers style, she doubled down on those fat jokes in an appearance on Dave Letterman’s show. British comedian Adam Hills took great exception to her saying that, saying she’s “being a dick” and even harsher insults. (NSFW Language) On Thursday, Hills tweeted his sorrow at Rivers’s passing:
I’m genuinely sad to hear of the passing of Joan Rivers. She was a comic force of nature, and a groundbreaking performer.
— Adam Hills (@adamhillscomedy) September 4, 2014
After around a half a century in comedy, Rivers was finding the world harder and harder to navigate. Some of it was because she was an elderly woman in a young, looks-obsessed world (is it any wonder that Rivers would attack on such a topic?), but it was also because she was unapologetic.
She never apologized, because she had nothing to apologize for. She was always “on,” and always a ferocious, fearless comic. Perhaps she stayed fresh and relevant for so long because she always has to fight to stay there.
Photo via Wikicommons