In 1967, Joan Rivers performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Her act, although amazingly mild to today’s standards, was groundbreaking for a female comic in the ’60s: Women just didn’t talk about this sort of stuff:
Fast-forward to 2014: Joan Rivers is 81 years old and she keeps talking about things that most people wouldn’t dare think, never mind say. She hosts Fashion Police weekly on E! and has her own reality show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on WEtv. She has her own line of clothing and jewelry on QVC. She’s won Emmys and has been nominated for Tonys. In other words, girlfriend has put in her damn time. She’s literally the reason why Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, and a host of other gay-loved comediennes, have careers.
Therefore, Joan Rivers can say whatever the hell she wants, and she knows it. That’s why her wildly offensive new book, Diary of a Mad Diva, works so well: it’s Joan fucking Rivers.
The loose premise of the newest tome by Rivers is pretty simple: her daughter, Melissa, gives her a diary as a Christmas gift (wait, aren’t they Jewish?) and Joan, begrudgingly, starts to write daily. Of course, in typical Joan fashion, these are anything but typical journal entires:
“Dear Diary: Nowadays there are so many award shows: the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the SAGs, the Oscars…there are more awards to honor actors than there are stretch marks on Ricky Martin’s mouth.”
“My favorite singer? k.d. lang. Not only does she make great music, but she’s really handy with a hammer and nails, and can get me free tickets to the Ellen show. Best of all, if k.d. likes you she will come over and clean your shag carpets with her tongue.”
“Tonight I was lying in bed struggling with a crossword puzzle (four-letter word beginning with ‘c’ for mean, horrible bitch; I wrote small and put in ‘TYRABANKS’).”
“Which fifty-year-old star who used to be married to Ashton K. was seen at a playground asking little boys if their testicles had dropped yet?”
Of course, Joan doesn’t stop with her stabs at celebrities: everyone is fair game, including the Obamas (“I wish Obama would have livened the speech up a bit. […] How great would it have been if he said, ‘Good news, gang! My daughter Sasha’s expecting! She’s gonna be eating government cheese for two! And even better, Hillary’s the baby daddy!'”), Casey Anthony (“Casey and her kid sat behind me on a six-hour airplane flint a week before the kid vanished. Casey had a point.”), and even the Pope (“There are no pockets in the vestments. Where does he keep his Altoids? No one needs a pontiff with altar boy on his breath.”).
There’s always the question if Joan “crosses the line,” and she even pokes fun of this in the book. She discusses her widely-controversial remarks about Heidi Klum on an episode of Fashion Police:
“I said, ‘I haven’t seen anything this hot since the Germans were pushing Jews into the ovens.’ You’d think I’d get a thank-you card, not just from Heidi for saying she looked nice, but from all the leftover Nazis for pointing out their ingenuity and stick-to-itiveness. But no, instead I get crap from the Anti-Defamation League for ‘insulting the Jews.’ And if I’d said ‘gypsies’ instead of ‘Jews,’ the Jews would have been made that I slighted them. This is why nobody likes us.”
Yes, coming from the average Joe, these types of comments would be offensive, if not not downright wrong. But Joan Rivers isn’t the average Joe. Perhaps that’s why Joan stormed out of a CNN interview this past weekend, claiming that anchor Fredricka Whitfield wasn’t fit to question a comedienne:
I’m still not 100 percent sure if the “interview” wasn’t a publicity stunt for Mad Diva, as, ironically, Joan acted like the title of her book. It’s not that Joan doesn’t care; she cares quite deeply, as anyone who has ever watched Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, the acclaimed documentary about her life, knows. However, she’s reached a point in her extraordinary career where she doesn’t have to take shit from anyone. You have to celebrate that about her, and in Diary of a Mad Diva, no shits are taken.