Joan Rivers has died at 81, and today’s generation will likely remember the tart-tongued comedienne for her often acidic commentary on red carpet fashion. I am a part of the in between generation – the ones that know she was a frequent guest host on The Tonight Show in the Johnny Carson days but never saw her because they were too young – that would likely remember her for her frequent appearances on a range of talk shows. She would sprinkle the audience with her acerbic commentary, generating laughs throughout, and although she would continue to pop up from time to time on television before her Fashion Police days, she maintained a relatively low key existence – at least, as low key as Joan Rivers could possibly be.
I feel most deeply for Melissa, Rivers’ daughter and frequent companion on many of her television appearances, including the short-lived Joan Knows Best? While it is not known whether Melissa had to make the painful choice to terminate life support for her mother, what is known is that undoubtedly, Melissa is grieving now, as is her son Cooper. While Joan Rivers was best known for her lively approach to co-hosting a show and to comedy in general, many found her endearing simply because she was quite open with everyone. She had a fearless approach to comedy that many would envy about comments they wish they could make in real life.
Joan Rivers was always someone who was lively in her approach to just about anything. Hers was not a laid-back life, and she could be considered the mistress of reinvention for the numbers of times she was able to overcome obstacles and hit viewers online, in film or on television. She attributed her success to her immigrant mentality, but by all accounts, the brash comic was able to conquer her audiences simply because she was an absolute marvel to watch.
Hers was a quick wit, and while there were some who found her brand of comedy tasteless, Joan Rivers simply did not stop. Her comments were rapid-fire, and while she admitted that everyone was pretty much a target for her, she would often make sharp comments simply to draw attention to issues she held dear. She noted that she chose to make jokes about just about anything simply because “If you laugh at it, you can deal with it – and if you don’t, you can’t deal with it.”
Now, it is Melissa who will have to make that heartrending final journey with her mother. While she’d had a falling out with her mother after her father Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide – she believed that Joan Rivers was responsible for the suicide – it was clear in recent years that the duo had a good relationship. It has to be difficult to be the child of a comedian, and it’s likely that Melissa endured some groaners as she was growing up. However, she loved her mother – that much is clear.
So, as the world grieves the loss of the queen of comedy, a daughter looks for ways to make sense of her mother’s death. Hopefully, she will be able to one day remember, although likely with a pang, how Joan Rivers made generations of people laugh.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean