As most of you have heard, Joan Rivers died yesterday at 81. The LA Times featured a really warm, funny, and feminist take on her career by fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who considered Rivers a friend and mentor:
Stand-up is not a gig in which you say, “It isn’t rocket science.” It’s harder than rocket science. And like rocket science probably was for ages, comedy was not woman’s work when Joan was coming up in the 1960s. A woman could know she was funny, but to make a living out of it? At that time, there was Phyllis Diller, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, and that was about it.
Right on, because if you want to become a rocket scientist, there’s an established way to do this: college, graduate school, and a system of professional mentors. It’s not easy, but there is a pretty clear path. If you want to be a comedian, especially a female comedian, there’s not an established path, and there were and still are very few mentors.
It makes sense that Griffin was drawn to Rivers as a mentor, because they both mock beauty standards for women in show business by meeting them but also revealing and deconstructing them at the same time: the jokes about all of the work and time it took, about age, and about plastic surgery, and the obsession with body fat–their own and other people’s. Griffin does a tremendous job of capturing Rivers’s ambition and generosity in just a few paragraphs: Continue Reading »