It had begun to seem like Joan Rivers would be with us forever, but now she’s gone.
I remember her most vividly from the 1980s when she was a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show, long before the unpleasantness between her and Johnny Carson when she started her own competing talk show.
Joan was caustic and her comedy could be mean, but she usually directed her harshest jokes at herself. I don’t know why this joke stands out above all the others, but I remember she once referred to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor as “Hamlet and Piglet.” This was especially cruel because Liz was struggling with her weight at the time, but it was ok because she was Hollywood royalty and Joan was just the court jester bringing the mighty down to a human level.
Oddly, I never really cared for Joan’s mean-spirited E! red carpet shtick even though it was in exactly the same vein and I didn’t may much attention to her throughout the 2000s. The documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work from a few years ago reminded me though of why she was so great. It paints a picture of an insecure woman driven to constantly to seek that audience approval, even well into old age. Check it out on Netflix streaming if you haven’t seen it.
Meanwhile, remember Joan with these clips from her heyday as Carson’s guest host.