After a chat about downsides of being single in LA (which are MANY) Joan Rivers asked me 'So, why are you STILL single?' I was living in LA at the time and we were filming her show Fashion Police, in between the gaps she was grilling me - in her usual lovable direct way. I answered 'I don't know' She looked at me straight in the eyes and asked 'You think men are intimidated by you?' I threw my hands in the air 'Who knows?' Then I will never forget what she said next 'Well if they are, its their problem, be yourself - fuck them!' That happened a few years ago now, and i'm truly gutted that I will never get to see her again, or even tell her that maybe I'm not so scary to men after all as I found a good one in the end.
She would have loved that. You know why? Because in the brief time that I met her and was fortunate enough to work with her I saw with my very own eyes that Joan was all about honesty. She used her biting truth to connect with her audience and everyone she encountered. She is even quoted saying; 'I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking'. Her authenticity made you feel that within hours of meeting her you were meeting the 'real' Joan Rivers, not a media trained people pleasing Hollywood replica of herself - which this industry can often be rampant with.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to give off the best version of yourself - god knows we all try too. But sometimes I do feel that when we are projecting our best 'game face' and trying to be liked we make it impossible for people to form an opinion of us, at best we are 'nice' at worst 'forgettable'. Joan's special brand of comedy polarized an audience, she made you feel something. You either loved or hated her sharp honesty - and for me I loved it. Joan didn't need you to like her and worked out that if you speak the truth and say the unsayable, well - you may just get a laugh in the process.
It wasn't always plain sailing for her though and she certainly went through her fair share of career ups and downs. Showbiz can be hard as its full of rejection, one minute your 'gonna blow up' the next your 'meh - what's her name again, Eliviar?'. But Joan just kept on going, doing her thing and being true to what she found funny. 'Everybody broke through ahead of me. I was the last one in the group to break through, or to be allowed to break through. Looking back, I think it was because I was a woman. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show.'
To me Joan is a lesson in on how to be authentic and stick to your guns, not only do I admire her honestly but her tenacity too. At the time when she started out in comedy there were so few women; 'When I started out, a pretty girl did not go into comedy. If you saw a pretty girl walk into a nightclub, she was automatically a singer. Comedy was all white, older men.'
But she wasn't disheartened, she kept on going, kept on being honest, daring, true to who she was and devastating funny in the process. So, to any female comics reading this thinking; 'blimey, this is hard!' or any actors musing 'maybe I should just try to be more like Brad Pitt?' or even single girls scratching their heads saying; 'Maybe I do scare men, maybe I should be softer?' I will say to you what Joan said to me 'FUCK THEM - BE YOURSELF' The best single piece of advice I was ever given. Joan - you will be missed, dearly. RIP.