You Can’t Intimidate Joan Rivers



Joan Rivers is unapologetic about her comedy.

Her jokes can be abrasive sometimes, and she’s been known to hurt a feeling or two.  But if you get your feelings hurt by a Joan Rivers joke, don’t bother waiting around for her to tell you she’s sorry. Demands for apologies from so-called “victims” of her jokes won’t change her mind; media pressure won’t change her mind either.   Even angry internet-ers carrying cyber-pitchforks and cyber-torches can’t bully her into backing down.  But they’ve definitely tried.

Recently Rivers made a joke on the Today Show that sparked some serious controversy.  She made a joke about her cramped living quarters on her reality show  “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” comparing her bedroom to the space that Ariel Castro’s kidnapping victims had in Cleveland. Actually what she said was, “those women in the basement in Cleveland had more room.”  Maybe it’s insensitive, but it’s also exaggeration, and most people would agree that nobody is actually harmed by her telling the joke.

There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down.

Turns out that those kidnapping victims did not have a sense of humor about the joke, and in fact they were pretty upset .  Their attorney issue a statement calling it “a new low” and asked for a “serious apology.” Although an apology might have seemed like an easy and safe thing to do, Joan wasn’t interested.  “I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke,” she told a Cleveland Newspaper.  “There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down.”  Here’s another thing you should know about Joan.  If you ask her to apologize, she’s probably going to end up tagging the first joke with something even more uncomfortable, and in this case she didn’t disappoint.  Rivers told TMZ that it wasn’t a big deal, saying, “one of them has a book deal.  Neither are in a psych ward.  They’re ok.  I bet you within 3 years one of them will be on Dancing with the Stars.” She added, “They got to live rent free for more than a decade.”

But it didn’t end there.  Over this past weekend, Norweigan Cruise Lines cancelled Joan’s gig on a planned July cruise to Alaska out of fear that they would be associated with the controversy.  Rivers responded, un-phased, telling Page Six of the New York Daily News,  “Of course they canceled me! They were terrified what I would say after seeing the size of their cabins. They should be featured on ‘Orange Is the New Black.’ ”

“The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.

This isn’t Joan’s first time holding her ground.  Rivers has a history of just saying ‘no’ to demands for apologies.  Just a year ago, the Anti Defamation League went after Joan demanding an apology for a Nazi-themed joke Joan made at an Academy Awards Party.  Commenting on a gorgeous looking Heidi Klum she said “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”  No apology was offered by Joan, or the E! network despite the Anti Defamation League’s insistence that “the remark is so vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors, and indeed to all Americans, that we cannot believe it made it to the airwaves.”  And they weren’t the only ones complaining.  The media was filled with reports of angry consumers threatening reprisal if Rivers didn’t apologize.

Around that same time, Rivers upset pop music fans after she made some comments about singer-songwriter Adele. Rivers had joked on The Late Show with David Letterman, calling Adele chubby and making a few other fat jokes at Adele’s expense. When Adele’s camp demanded an apology, Joan added this: “She’s a chubby lady who’s very, very rich, and she should just calm down – or lose weight!’ Rivers said. ‘Adele is beautiful and successful,’ she said, ‘but let’s face reality: she’s fat.’  Of course Rivers has always been known for telling it like it is, particularly about celebrities. Why anyone would be hurt, offended or expect otherwise is anyones guess.

Who would have expected that our most fearless comedian would turn out to be a 5’2, 80 year old Jewish woman?

Rivers refusal to apologize for jokes is a very rare thing in today’s hypersensitive climate.  It seems that almost every day, someone is apologizing for a joke or comment they made  (to see what we mean, catch up with  our ‘Public Shaming Calendar‘).   And you would have a very hard time finding more than a handful of instances where performers have stood by their comedy when the heat is on.   In 2014 alone we’ve seen the public demand apologies from Jeremy Clarkson, Shaquille O’Neal, Boomer Esiason, Lena Dunham, Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler, The Morning Joe Show, Al Roker, Imus and Gabourey Sidibe among others.So backpedaling has become an art, and it seems that everyone is afraid of what might happen if they don’t apologize.  Everyone, that is, except Joan Rivers.

Who would have expected that our most fearless comedian would turn out to be a 5’2,  80 year old Jewish woman?



Watch “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” on WEtv Saturday nights at 10pm et.

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