Joan Rivers: “Lenny Bruce Changed My Life”


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When Joan and Melissa Rivers stopped by the Ron and Fez show this week to talk about the new season of “Joan and Melissa” they talked with host Ron Bennington about what it’s like to be  a member of one of the most famous families in comedy, and being on a reality show together.

Joan is the more candid of the two, openly congratulating her daughter for loosening up on camera this season.  “Melissa has finally said “oh fuck it,” and stopped worrying about appearances Joan told host Ron Bennington.  “We got to see your boobies,” she told her daughter.  Melissa explained that for her, she’s glad that the show gives her a chance to show the world what it’s like to be Joan’s daughter.  “People now understand why I am the way I am.  It explains my psychosis,” she said.

Joan had differences of opinions with her own mother too, who she says didn’t approve of her choice of a career in comedy.  “Comics are the lowest form of showbiz endeavor,” Joan explained.  “My mother to the day she died, never said I was a comedian. She’d say ‘she’s a writer’.  I was hosting the Carson show! ‘She’s a writer. So proud of her, she’s a writer.'”

It’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t be proud of the incredible career Joan has had.  She talked about coming up in the business with names like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Dick Cavett and Lily Tomlin.  “It was an amazing time,” she said.  “I’m talking about sitting in a row at The Bitter End with a number…all waiting to go on.”  She was working with so many of the greatest comedic minds but answered quickly and unequivocally when Bennington asked her if there was one comedian who changed her life.  It was Lenny Bruce. 

Lenny Bruce! Nothing to discuss, nothing to discuss. I was lucky enough—we were at The Bitter End holding the numbers—he was across the street at a place called Café Wha getting busted. And we were able to run across and see him. Can’t touch him! Nobody still can touch him. And you wonder…if he was alive—what he’d be talking about now. Told the truth!  I know this sounds stupid. And that’s what I try to do—told the truth. And also sexy as hell. Such a — oh, ho ho, you have no idea!  The women were mad about him.

And the men loved him because he was a man’s man, and told the truth. And would go around…he knew. you know, like all this stuff now. And I do it in my act. He would say, yeah, you’re a nigger, you’re a wop, you’re a kike, you’re a frog, you’re a chink and…everybody’s something so stop it. And he went ‘yeah’, and then he would do the act. It was amazing. It was amazing.

But she also had a personal reason why Lenny changed her life.  She explained:

He did something that was so nice for young people. I was at The Bitter End doing my own act, and bombing. And he sent me a note, ‘you’re right, they’re wrong.” Held it in my bra! And went on and I ended up on Carson, blah blah blah. And I’m sitting with George Carlin one night years later. We’re both okay now.   And I said to George, “you know what kept me going? Lenny Bruce came over and saw me and sent me a note ‘you’re right they’re wrong.’ He said, ‘he sent me the same note’. (laughs) So I think he sent it to every comedian around. (laughs) How sweet in a way. He would see a comedian, he would say ‘you’re right they’re wrong, — Lenny Bruce.’

After that, Joan learned that no matter what, you keep on going.

You can hear this interview in its entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio. Follow Joan on twitter @Joan_Rivers and follow Melissa on twitter @MelRivers. Season four of Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best premiers this Saturday, March 29th eastern time on the We Network. Get more info at

Read excerpts from some of the greatest comedy interviews in the country when host Ron Bennington sits down with more of the best comedians in the business like David Steinberg, Jeff Garlin, and Bobby Moynihan.