The XX Factor

Joan Rivers Will Never Relinquish the Spotlight

Recommended reading for the long weekend: Jonathan Van Meter’s delightful profile of Joan Rivers in this week’s New York . There is a lot to admire about Joan, but I particularly liked her unwillingness to give up the spotlight or to lavish false praise on younger female comics. Van Meter says he asked her what she thought of Kathy Griffin via e-mail a few years ago. Joan wrote:

“I am her friend but also furious. … She is the big one now. My club dates have simply vanished and gone to her. She will last as she is very driven. Like me, she wants it. But every time a gay man tells me, ‘Oh, she is just like you! I love her!’ I fucking want to strangle them. But, please God let someone give me credit. I feel so totally forgotten. The fucking New Yorker did this big piece on the genius of Rickles, who is brilliant but who hasn’t changed a line in fifteen years. Meanwhile, I am totally ‘old hat’ and ignored while in reality I could still wipe the floor with both Kathy and Sarah. Anyhow, fuck them all. Age sucks. It’s the final mountain.”

There’s a documentary about Joan Rivers that is coming out next week, called Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work , and Van Meter notes that there’s a full-on Rivers revival afoot: She recently won the Celebrity Apprentice , she’s got a show on TV Land, and she’s getting great press for this documentary. While some may want to lump her in with Betty White-another famous comedian and grandmother who has been getting raves of late-what I appreciate from Joan is that she still has her old vigor and venom. No disrespect for the fantastic Ms. White, but the mass love of her performances is often tinged with condescension: That cute old lady said what? How shocking and adorable ! Rivers refuses to tone down or to stop competing. According to Van Meter, Joan even has a pillow that she embroidered that says: “DON’T EXPECT PRAISE WITHOUT ENVY UNTIL YOU ARE DEAD.” Gotta love it.

Photograph of Joan Rivers by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.