I got several emails and messages from pals and readers yesterday after Joan Rivers’ shocking passing, all basically saying that they “really hope” that I’ll “devote a column to her.” Since I never met her, (and my tributes have always been about people I know,) I hadn’t planned on it. But I gave it some thought, and realized that, as a female in comedy, I, too, owe her for blazing the trail I wasn’t even aware of.
She had been famous for my whole life, so I never realized that females weren’t considered that funny back in the day. As I grew up, I found out that Joan Rivers was actually one of the pioneers of the genre for us ladies, so for that I’m grateful.
I’m leaving the big tributes to others, (because I feel that, at this point, there’s nothing original left to say,) and just sharing how our lives sort-of intersected, which is why this horror that happened to her is so extra strange to me. I’ve never had a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of Joan Rivers. I just can’t fathom that she’s no longer here.
Though, as I stated, I never actually met Joan Rivers, (which even I find hard to believe,) our paths did cross occasionally. I’d see her at a black tie function here and there. Mr. X and she appeared once in the same celebrity charity softball game in Vegas that I attended with him. I saw her perform live at a club in town, where we were both friends with the owner.
And, most prominently, upon meeting a good pal of hers,I was surprised when he told me that she had an edict out to all her friends that they had to call her as soon as they saw my show come on TV. (For those of you who weren’t in L.A. in those days, Karen’s Restaurant Revue didn’t have a regular time slot for a long while, so viewers had to just find it, and then call each other to let them know, too.) How flattering for a young female comedian!
I have to share two more examples of how our careers were sort-of entwined, which, even though they may sound a tad negative, they’re far from it; I actually kind-of get a kick out of these instances. I lost two show biz jobs because of Joan, in round-about ways, and nothing to do with her personally. One was a late night hosting gig, that I had originally been sought after for, but in the end, they rejected me because they thought the audience might think I was too much like a young Joan Rivers, and her show hadn’t worked in late night, so they didn’t want to take the chance on me. The second was a gossip show on E!, and this time, it came down to her and me to host it. Guess which one of us they went with? I would have, too.
And now she’s gone. That’s just so weird. I have nothing much to add to what we already know about the situation, except that I feel awful that someone would die that way. I feel like Joan would say something about how ironic it is that she was the queen of plastic surgery, yet this happened from an actual medical procedure. Only she would put a joke in there; but I don’t have the heart to go for it now, even though I feel that Joan would approve.
I just choose to imagine Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller pow-wowwing somewhere together, hoping that we’ll continue to laugh when we think of them, two of the original famous funny ladies.