The life and legacy of Joan Rivers (1933-2014).
Rivers grew up in a state of constant contradiction. Her mother's desire to have the nicest things put the family in perpetual financial struggle, and Rivers wanted to become a famous actress but struggled with her “plain” appearance. She desperately wanted people to find her funny, but for the longest time, no one did. But as she wrote later in life, “I knew instinctively that my unyielding drive was my most important asset.” Many consider Rivers’ style of humor to be unnecessarily mean, but her in-your-face approach was courageous at a time when female comics “couldn’t even make a bodily reference.” Rivers eventually became a household name, finding success as a late-night guest host with Johnny Carson and then later through E! and QVC. But there was so much failure first, and former Vanity Fair writer Bennetts (The Feminine Mistake, 2008) seemingly includes it all. “After years of being pampered, I am still angry. I am angry because of the Show Bar,” Rivers said, referring to the humiliating gigs of her early career. Since she would do anything to succeed, she hated people (especially young, beautiful people) who did not work hard to keep up their appearances. She never thought she was mean because she believed the targets of her jokes could take it, and she was always equally critical, if not more so, of herself. Rivers just “didn’t understand weakness.” Bennetts portrays her subject as a woman much more complex than her outwardly abrasive personality might suggest, and while some sections fly by, others are so weighed down by the particulars, like the reasons behind Rivers leaving the Tonight Show, that the book is at risk of losing the vibrancy readers will no doubt expect, given its subject.
A thorough, sweeping look at the woman who pioneered the idea that "outrageousness can be cleansing and healthy" and the turbulent personality that brought it to life.