She didn’t earn the posthumous sobriquet “Comedic Stiletto” from The New York Times for nothing. “Raspy loudmouth” comedian Joan Rivers inspired strong emotions and reliable bursts of controversy with her abrasive, take-no-prisoners style. Mastering insult comedy was a survival skill for the comic who took as much as she dished out while coming up in the aggressive, mostly male stand-up world. Before the late-night, fashion, and reality shows, autobiography and documentary, and stints on QVC, Rivers carved paths, paved ways, blazed trails, and left other pioneering marks for such masters of the put-down as Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman, and others who—as a 1965 NYT review painfully put it—overcame “the handicap of a woman comic.” Ham-fisted jabs from the press aside, Rivers said many times she never thought of herself particularly as a “woman comic,” and if that designation ever signified a “handicap” or some sort of gimmick it’s no wonder. She deserved better than to be patronized. Rivers was true to the craft, as every comic currently eulogizing her will tell you, and as she would tell us herself, at every opportunity, but perhaps never more earnestly than to Louis C.K. above in a clip from his show. C.K. is moved enough to put one of his signature moves on her. Rivers’ response? “Nobody likes necrophiliacs.” She will haunt us from the grave with her morbid, scalpel-like one-liners, may she rest in peace.
Robin Williams (1951-2014) Performs Unknown Shakespeare Play in 1970s Standup Routine
Don Pardo (1918-2014), Voice of Saturday Night Live, Suggests Using Short Words
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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