Let me start by saying I have never hated Joan Rivers. In fact, at one time, I loved, loved, loved her. Early in my career, back in her can-we-talk days, I interviewed her for a feature story and I still keep that yellow-edged article in my portfolio because I enjoyed our conversation so much.
But in recent years, I haven’t loved her as much as I used to. I saw her live a few years ago and felt like she lost her edge, relying too much on the F-word to get her jokes across. I guess when you get to be her age — as it should be — you don’t give a fuck what people think or say.
Well, Joan, you’ve won me over again with your latest book, “I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me” (Penguin Group). Within 10 pages, she had me in tears from laughing so hard. I think it was her definition of a tween: “which is just a teen who hasn’t given a blow job yet.” Actually, even before the book begins, the dedication page lets readers know they’re in for a very un-PC diatribe because she dedicates it to two killers, including O.J. Simpson, because “maybe the lippy ex-wife had it coming.”
Too soon? IT’S A JOKE, PEOPLE! And if you don’t like that one, you probably won’t enjoy ones about 9/11, the Holocaust or abortion, either.
That is the thing I’ve always loved about Joan: the courage to say inappropriate, funny things that will make people gasp both from horror and from laughing so hard. I believe the phrase “Oh no she di-ent” was first uttered at a Joan Rivers show. I said of her those many years ago after our interview that there were no sacred cows in Joan’s pasture. And that statement remains as true today. She’ll take potshots at anyone — ugly babies, dumb children, lip-smacking old people, rude airline passengers, gay wives and lesbian grooms, and especially other celebrities — skewer them and serve them up with a delicious punchline.
Actually, one of the best chapters is one about food and restaurants. Here’s a juicy morsel: “I hate it when the waiter comes to the table and asks, ‘Would you like to see a menu?’ What’s the correct response to that question: ‘No. Let me guess what you have in the refrigerator.’ Or ‘No. I’m not worthy. I’ll just eat the crumbs off of the lap of the old lady at table seven.'”
She writes with the same rapid-fire delivery that she uses on stage so that when you’re reading the book, it’s her voice that you hear in your head saying things like, “I hate ‘dry’ weddings where they don’t serve alcohol. If I want dry, I’ll spend time in the Mojave Desert or take pictures of my vagina”; or “I’ve undergone more reconstruction than Baghdad.” As the title indicates, Joan continues to do what she has always done best: make fun of herself.
To be frank (can we talk?) not all of the jokes work and some of the comedienne’s references are so dated they show her age. I’m not sure one-liners about Sylvia Plath, Mickey Rooney or baby Jessica falling in a well in 1987 work that well today. But she makes up for it with plenty of current zingers about Jerry Sandusky that are spot on. But Joan knows her audience better than I do; and in the end, it’s a testament to her own longevity in show business that she can reference everyone from Clara Bow and Senor Wences to Kim Kardashian and Beyonce in her jokes, or stretch a comparison between Shirley Temple and kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard.
And it wouldn’t be a Joan Rivers book without at least a few Liz Taylor fat jokes. When they come from Joan, those are always funny, even if Ol’ Violet Eyes is dead.
And Bea Arthur being a man. Again, always funny. Even if the Ol’ Dickless Baritone is dead, too.
Not that she’s ever gone away, but in my book Joan is back with a vengeance and a very funny new book. The world would be a happier place if there were more hatemongers like her.