People & Ideas

Sep 5, 2014

Rundle: we won’t mourn for Rivers, but my god she was funny

Joan Rivers was far more of a pioneer and innovator than Robin Williams, but she had no sincere schtick. She was all brassy, all bitchy and all funny -- the last of her kind, and the best.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Joan Rivers, my god, can we talk? That woman went out as she would have wanted, dead from complications of plastic surgery, a few weeks after abusing the Palestinians of Gaza in an appalling but still blackly funny series of remarks (“well, they’re phoning in warnings so only the stupid ones are being killed”). That last intervention will ensure that some of the obsequies will be a little muted in tone — Rivers had a big following among American progressives, but you can’t say she wasn’t even-handed in handing it out. She had a big mainstream following too, and lost a chunk of that with her infamous “9/11 widows” routine, in which she speculated that at least some of the desperate housewives of the New York burbs, on seeing on TV the likely incineration of their  husbands, had (and she would act this out) stamped their feet up and down and gone “oh yes yes yes, thank you, thank you”.

The routine was classic Rivers, neither unctuously political nor faux radical — simply cutting through the bullshit to make the simple acknowledgement of the realities of domestic life, and the venal side of human nature. She will not get anything like the bizarre outpouring of grief earned by Robin Williams, but unlike Williams she’d been funny in the last 10 years. She was funny to the day she died. Your average episode of her basic cable dogshit show Fashion Police was funnier than anything with a hundred times the money spent on writers and stars. How can you grieve for someone whose job was to regularly appall you? How can you grieve for an 81-year-old woman who most likely died from a face-lift? My god, it must have snapped off and flown across the operating theatre. If you find that offensive, you wouldn’t like Rivers anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details