America Needs to Be More Like Joan Rivers

She was vulgar, crass, and irreverent, but she was also witty, and very, very relatable.

In fact, it is what was most endearing about Joan Rivers – almost everyone could relate to her simple, candid barbs attacking individuals who reflected society on the whole – including herself, through a powerful sense of self-deprecating comedy that was well-honed after 50 years in the business.

Rivers suffered plenty of personal and professional heartache in her 81 years that actually provided the best fodder for show-stopping one-liners, including her famous rift with Johnny Carson (“It was like Stalin had sent me to Siberia”), and even the suicide of her manager-husband (“It was my fault. We were making love and I took the bag off my head”).

Now that she has gone from this earth, too soon sadly, all we will have left are some old videos on YouTube and a few of our favorite Joan Rivers jokes to remember, such as:

  • I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
  • I said to my mother-in-law, “My house is your house.” She said, “Get the hell off my property.”
  • I bought a pedigree dog for $300. My friend said, "Give me $300 and I'll shit on your carpet."
  • My best birth control now is just to leave the lights on.
  • I once dated a guy so dumb he could not count to 21 unless he was naked.

There is one more thing, though. In honor of Joan Rivers, America could stand to be a little more like her. Perhaps we will leave the vulgarity out, because only she could master such filth, but think about it – we are a humorless society.

People are generally not self-deprecating, and they are mortally wounded and more victim-like all the time these days, especially in the face of adversity. If a person in the public eye makes one off-color remark, for instance, he is burned in effigy and boycotted until he apologies endlessly, and then is forced to resign anyway!

Consider, also, how silly and lacking in humility our national leaders are.

The President of the United States golfs while the world is burning (“With each new beheading, his handicap improves by a stroke”). The Attorney General of the United States launches another civil rights investigation in Ferguson, Missouri (“Eric Holder has begun so many investigations, nobody was left, so he finally got around to investigating himself - but found nothing”).

Joan Rivers was a success in part because when she began in the business in the 1960s and 1970s, she struck the right chord when our society was in the throes of dramatic changes, some good and some bad.

Especially back then, she helped us laugh at our flaws as a society by stripping the dignity from our most celebrated trendsetters. It made famous people look human (“Mick Jagger could French-kiss a moose. He has child-bearing lips.”), and perhaps helped make Americans feel a little better about ourselves, especially in times of economic and political strife.

Today, life is ever-more complicated but we make it much worse when we lack humility and the ability to recover quickly from all of the adversity around us. We could all stand to be more like Joan Rivers. We should laugh at the divisions in society – the sooner we laugh after conflict strikes, the sooner we can heal those divisions and move on.

Ironically, America needs more Joan Rivers right now. We will all be better off if we act a little more like her, and just get over ourselves!

NOTE: The Obama and Holder jokes are mine – not very good, but an attempt to be a little bit like Joan Rivers.


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