Joan Rivers: Forever ‘In the Trenches’

Personal experience with, and inspiration by, the comedienne leads to lasting impact
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Like so many others, my heart hurts at the passing of Joan Rivers. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. I hope they take comfort in the evidence of Rivers’ lasting impact, which has been so well documented, but of course bears repeating (more on Rivers’ life on broadcastingcable.comhere. Her firsts as a female in comedy and her generally uncompromising, unapologetic style were historic on their own. But they also without a doubt paved the way for numerous comediennes and comedians alike, many of whom have openly acknowledged how much she inspired them. The obit posted by her longtime Fashion Police home E! details this point beautifully.

But to me the fact that she was “never done” is something I hope to carry with me in tribute to her, emulating her by being a little less apologetic and lot more committed to doing what I love. It’s my tiny part to help ensure that her work really, truly is never done. Rivers did what she loved — making people laugh — right nearly up to the end of her long, full life. E! says she performed the night before the procedure during which she had complications that landed her in intensive care. They also dug up this great quote from a Pioneers of Television interview, in which she basically says “don’t call me a pioneer”:  

"It upsets me to say I'm a pioneer because I'm so current now...I don't like when the ladies come up and say, 'Oh, you broke barriers for women.' I'm still breaking barriers…and I can still take you sweetheart with both hands tied behind my back. You asked me am I proud to be a pioneer? I'm not a pioneer. I'm still in the trenches, I'm still breaking ground."

In my few personal interactions with her, Rivers proved to be as sweet as she was talented, and as tough. Once when I was a reporter at Variety, Rivers offered in-the-moment hilarity in trying to get me to hold a story about Fashion Police by offering the scoop that Brad Pitt was actually a woman — you know, as a trade. "Hold this and I'll help you with that scoop," she said. We both busted up laughing; eventually I broke the story.

And each of the handful of times we spoke she said, "You know my daughter's name is Melissa."

Rest in peace, Joan Rivers. And rock on.

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