Joan Rivers Epitomized the Broke-Ass Proverb: Doing What You Love Makes Everyone Smile
The 81-year-old iconoclastic comedian died yesterday at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where she had spent the week fighting for her life, proceeding complications which occurred during a minor procedure on her vocal cords. It resulted in a loss of consciousness after going into cardiac arrest, and eventually her death.
Even before her passing, it was safe to say that if it weren’t for Joan Rivers we would not have ever gotten a Roseanne Barr, a Tina Fey, a Whoopi Goldberg, a Sarah Silverman, or any of the successful and, still, burgeoning women in the comedy community.
Not only did Joan Rivers let the world know that women are funny—at a time when old, white men ruled the stand-up comedy scene like pale dinosaurs with vanilla-flavored humor—but she let it be known that you could have fun and make a living doing what it is that you love.
Like many of us, Joan Rivers was a broke ass who worked odd jobs and dead-end jobs; doing her part to keep this economic structure afloat. She admitted as much when she opened up to The Hollywood Reporter two years ago.
“I was an office temp when one secretary said to me: “You’re funny. You should go do stand-up, be a comedian. They make six dollars a night some places.” And I said, “That’s more than I’m making as an office temp.”—I made eight, but I had to also pay for my Correcto-Type because I was a lousy speller—so I thought, “Oh, I could do that and have days free to make the rounds.” And that’s why I became a comedian.”
While it may have been an uphill battle for Rivers, as a woman, to break into the comedy scene and achieve the success that came effortlessly for her male peers, she was able to become a transcendent figure for the art of jokes. The odds were against her and she still managed to find a way to accomplish quite a lot.
We may remember Joan Rivers for her outrageous antics, her falling out with Johnny Carson, the plastic surgery which left her face cemented with one expression and the eccentric relationship with her daughter, Melissa. But she was more than that. Beneath all of the tomfoolery, Joan Rivers was (and still is) an inspiration for the struggling comedian, artist, actor, writer, dancer, and all creative types. Do what you love. Spread that love and make people happy. Not only would I’d like you to remember her as the funny person she was, but also as someone who was happy because she did the one thing she loved: she loved making people laugh.
“What pleasure you feel when you’ve kept people happy for an hour and a half. They’ve forgotten their troubles. It’s great. There’s nothing like it in the world. When everybody’s laughing, it’s a party. And then you get a check at the end. That’s very nice.”
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