A couple of years ago, I watched that Joan Rivers documentary when it was streaming on Netflix. Near the beginning, there’s a scene where she stands in front of her card catalogue, which is packed full of her jokes and one-liners. Thousands upon thousands of jokes and one-liners. For me, that was the lightbulb she’s-a-writer moment. And it applied not just to Joan, who had, of course, written books, too, but to comedians in general. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of comedians as writers before that point. I’d always appreciated comedy as an art form; I’d just never appreciated it as having so much in common with my own. But jokes and humor and timing are integral parts of storytelling. Jokes are stories themselves, told out loud in front of a live audience, fast and furious.
After that documentary, Joan went on my “people to see before they die” list. I missed my chance.
Other reasons to appreciate Joan, besides the glass-ceiling busting, which is better described by people like Kathy Griffin:
– I have a slight obsession with the red carpet. I used to watch with my friends when we were all in one place. I watch with them via twitter now that we’re not. We have Joan Rivers to thank for bringing us together. I admit I harbored a fantasy of one day writing an original screen play and of having Joan ask who I was wearing (after which I would probably say “Target,” pronouncing it “Tar-jay,” as if no one had ever made that joke before). I suppose now that fantasy will have to include Kelly Osbourne.
– I have a slight obsession with Sarah Silverman, who wouldn’t be where she is if Joan Rivers hadn’t been where she was.
-And my final note of appreciation for Joan comes because she told me stories when I was a kid via The Electric Company, even thought I didn’t know it was Joan Rivers at the time. She was the narrator for The Adventures of Letterman segment. My brother discovered this (or more likely always knew this and rediscovered it) a couple of years ago when he was watching old episodes with his son. Gene Wilder was the voice of Letterman, by the way. But it was Joan, letting us know what that evil spellbinder was up to.