My first recollection of seeing Joan Rivers was sometime when I was a either a young teenager or younger. I remember that the show was in black and white(?) and it was some type of syndicated show that was on during the afternoon during the summer. It wasn't Merv Griffin. I just remember she made me laugh.
Joan became the first permanent substitute host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Andy Cohen said it best when he told Matt Lauer it was like a Christmas present when she was the host. I totally agree. I would make it a point to stay up and at a minimum watch her monologue.
As a comedian, Joan felt like everyone was fair game. She said things that everyone wished they could say but before she would say them she said things about herself. Which goes to the old adage about laughing first at yourself.
In some ways I do understand why Johnny Carson was upset with her when she was offered her own show on Fox. However, I don't understand why he never spoke to her again and held a grudge. From what I understand, the news was leaked before Joan could talk to him. When she did call him, he hung up on her. What is also upsetting is that subsequent hosts of the show continued the ban. It wasn't until Jimmy Fallon became the host that she made her return to the show. Honestly, Jimmy gained a higher level of respect from me.
I did see Joan perform twice. Both times were in Houston. The first time was either in 1992 or 1993 at The Arena Theatre. My good friend Lyndon came in from Dallas and went with me. The second time was in August of 2009. Both times she classic Joan.
Joan was criticized for being crass, not holding back and taking no prisoners. It could be offensive to some, myself included. There were a few times that I thought she should have apologized but that wasn't her policy. This video will explain it:
So...back to the late night show...
I'm not being disrespectful to Totie Fields, Phyllis Diller or Lucille Ball when I say that Joan was a pioneer and had stamina. As I previously mentioned, she was the first female to host a late night show. Huffington Post comprised a collection of tributes from the current hosts. It brought tears to my eyes. And if you ever questioned her stamina and work ethic, please watch Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
I gained a new respect for her when she was on Celebrity Apprentice (and won). The charity she played for was God's Love We Deliver. From their website:
God's Love We Deliver is the tri-state area's leading provider of nutritious, individually-tailored meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves.
Founded in 1985 when one woman began delivering food on her bicycle to a man dying from AIDS, God's Love now cooks 4,600 meals each weekday, delivering them to clients living with life-altering illnesses in all five boroughs of New York City, Newark and Hudson County, New Jersey. All of our services are provided free of charge to our clients, their children and to the senior caregivers of our senior clients, without regard to income, and we have never maintained a waiting list. Because we believe the combination of hunger and serious illness is a crisis, we deliver food within 24 – 48 hours of first being contacted.
God's Love We Deliver is a non-sectarian organization, providing meals with the strong belief of "food as medicine." To that end, we employ a team of registered dietitians who individually tailor meals to each client's specific medical requirements. God's Love provides all services by employing a small but dedicated professional staff and with the critical assistance of nearly 8,000 volunteers annually.
Not only did Joan raise money for the organization she helped deliver meals. Joan was also one of the first celebrities to lend her name to HIV/AIDS causes when it wasn't popular.
So...for all of the criticism she received for her no holds bar schtick, she did have a heart and was compassionate. It's the persona that many people didn't see.
News coverage yesterday and today about the funeral service have been great. It would have been nice to be in NYC and see Melissa Rivers and Cooper. I heard that last night, Melissa spoke to the well-wishers outside of her mom's apartment and even sent them cupcakes. MailOnline has some great photos of the celebrities who paid tribute to Joan. It sounds like almost everything Joan wanted (minus Meryl Streep crying in different accents and the Beyonce wind machine.)
So...to the lady who added the phrases to my vernacular..."Who are you wearing?" "Oh grow up!" and "Can we talk?", thank you for the laughs. Thank you for being a humanitarian.