Joan Rivers, one of the great comedians of the last century, has been taken off life support, and she officially died today after days of speculation about her possible recovery.
Joan was a dirty, caustic, mean, fearless, and hilarious broad in the best sense of that term, and along with Phyllis Diller basically paved the way for all contemporary female comedians.
As her just published New York Times obit says, “Ms. Rivers evolved from a sassy, self-deprecating performer early in her career into a coarser assassin, slashing at celebrities and others with a rapier wit that some critics called comic genius in the bloodletting vein of Lenny Bruce.”
Also, she was the queen of “too soon.”
Even the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center were not off limits. “A few days after 9/11,” Jonathan Van Meter recalled in a 2010 New York magazine article, “she called and asked me if I wanted to meet her for lunch at Windows on the Ground.”
“Oh, grow up!” she advised.
I saw her six years ago in a small venue, at a benefit event on Folsom Street Fair Weekend, and with an audience made up of almost entirely gay men she did a lot of her blue material, including some old jokes about how everyone who’s HIV-positive these days is in better shape than everyone who isn’t.
She was just as biting and self-deprecating in her very first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, joking about how difficult it was for her mother to marry her off, and about how women are old maids at 30 but single men are still a catch at 90.
Here she is delivering a hilarious opening monologue on the Tonight Show, filling in for Johnny Carson as she did many times, in 1982.
Here she is talking about being a comedian with Louis CK on Season 2 of Louis, and then having sex with him.
And here she is having a lesbian kiss on a 2013 episode of Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?.