We were saddened to hear about the passing of Joan Rivers today. While her final days were spent on life support, our April 2012 interview with the sharply irreverent comedienne shows that her preceding 81 years of life were lived to the fullest. In honor of her passing, we bring from the vault our Q&A with the television and fashion industry’s most outspoken family member.
Can We Laugh?
Ever-irreverent comedian and reality TV star Joan Rivers opens up about everything from the Red Carpet to her female parts
Love her or hate her, the snarky 78-year-old comedian with the raspy Brooklyn accent has done just about everything you can think of in show business, all the while breaking down barriers for women in entertainment.
She was the ﬁrst and only female to have her own late night talk show. She helped to make the Red Carpet famous. She won Celebrity Apprentice. Her life and career are even the subject of a moving documentary – Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – that won honors at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Not satisﬁed with taking life easy in her golden years, Rivers – who has also become the poster child for plastic surgery – maintains a busy schedule, ﬁlming “Fashion Police” for E! Entertainment Television and the wildly popular reality show “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” for WEtv.
“Joan and Melissa” showcases Rivers’ move to the home of her daughter, Melissa, in Malibu and includes everything from battles with a neighbor over trees blocking their view of the Paciﬁc Ocean to smoking medicinal marijuana to cope with stress (in one episode, Rivers claims she’ll never smoke again).
This month, Rivers returns to the stage to her ﬁrst love – stand-up – at the Hershey Theatre. We caught up with her as she sat at her desk in her New York apartment.
Fly Magazine: So, who are you wearing right now?
Joan Rivers: I’m wearing Chanel slacks, and I’ve just taken off a pretty Armani jacket. Now I’m putting on my real clothes [laughs]. With “Fashion Police” going to an hour, I’m much more careful about what I wear. People are always saying to me, “Who are you wearing?” or “What are you wearing?” But it’s very hard when you go on a plane – you get all dressed up in a pretty jacket and pretty jewelry, and you have to take the whole damn thing off to go through that stupid security. It’s really a bitch.
FM: Do you remember when you said your first swear word?
JR: It probably came very late. I came from a lovely, very nice upper middle class background. My father was a doctor. My mother had two girls who were raised with very good manners – thank you notes, patent leather shoes and little white gloves. No swearing in my house. Now I think I take the Guinness Book of World Records for swearing on stage.
FM: Did your mother ever say anything about your stage show?
JR: My show has evolved over the years. Comedy is wild, rough and crazy now, so what my mother saw and thought was outrageous is now adorable. I remember when I was pregnant with Melissa, and I couldn’t say I was pregnant on television. I had to say, “Soon I will hear the pitter-patter of little feet.” Now, my God, you can talk about vaginas. I have a joke that my vagina is like the Mojave Desert – barren and dry – and you can say that on television and people laugh. So it’s come a long way.
FM: Your show is called “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” with a question mark. Why the question mark?
JR: Because it depends on what side of the fence you’re on. If you’re the daughter, does mother know best? I don’t think so. If you’re the mother, take that question mark away immediately [laughs].
JR: It took forever this time because we wanted reality. We didn’t want someone to come in and say, “Today we’re sending you to a pet shop and we’re going to have a crazy dog in there.”
FM: So you didn’t want the Kate Gosselin model for reality TV?
JR: Oh, I love that she was taking care of 162 children herself and managing to get a face lift and a tummy tuck and go on dates. I don’t think so. I think someone else was making the peanut butter and jelly.
FM: Do you really think you will never smoke marijuana again?
JR: No, I think I will, but I’m waiting to be stressed out again. I loved it [laughs]. But you know what stops me is that it makes you get the munchies, and I don’t need that at this age. When you’re as old as I am, to lose a pound you have to run the reservoir 17 times. I go on a cleanse and I gain weight from all that horrible liquid they give you.
FM: You lost your husband tragically earlier in life – how have you dealt with some of the lowest points in you life?
JR: Major drugs [laughs]. But I deal with everything in very much the same way – move on. You can’t change what’s happened, so move forward, get over it, accept it, deal with it and learn from it. If you’re going to wallow, you’re an idiot because you’re never going to get out of it.
FM: Did you ever think about letting nature take its course and not having plastic surgery?
JR: No – not in the business I’m in. I mean, why not? Why do you pick a new hairstyle? Why does someone buy a new pair of shoes? Everybody wants to look good, and when you’re lucky enough to be in a town like Beverly Hills where it is so available to you and so accepted, you don’t even think about it. Maybe if I was in podunk Iowa and I had to go to the veterinarian to get a facelift I’d think about it.
FM: Do you ever get tired about being the butt of jokes when it comes to plastic surgery?
JR: Constantly. But, then again, I think I was the one that opened that up and made it acceptable to talk about.
FM: Why do you think it took so long for people to realize how big the Red Carpet could become?
JR: Because nobody realized that people are only interested in what they’re wearing and who is drunk. You want the gossip and who they’re with. The New York Times reprimanded me the first year by saying, “She asks such shallow questions.” I said that people don’t really want to discuss Vietnam at the moment. They’re walking in, and they’re nervous. And they’re not going to tell you the truth that they hate their co-star, so you ask them who they’re wearing, “Turn around, oh my gosh,” and if they’re drunk, you roll your eyes at the camera. Next.
FM: Do you still think that life is one big joke?
JR: I think life is so much fun, and I think life is so sad and so difficult. You better enjoy life, because you don’t know what’s going to come across that little telephone tomorrow. And it is a joke and it is stupid, so you better laugh – especially if you’re naked.