I am personally devastated by the news that Joan Rivers just died.  I have loved her and her daughter Melissa for a VERY long time (for reasons I will probably get into some day) but right now I just want to think about how tough she had to be her whole life and how it forged her comedy.

She started out in the 60s.  Imagine a young Jewish girl trying to make a living in comedy clubs with the audience full of Don Drapers.  But she made it.  She had one kid (my beloved Melissa) and caught the eye of Johnny Carson.  She was a guest on The Tonight Show a million times and filled in for Johnny when he was out.

But then she got her own talk show in 1986 and called Johnny and he hung up on her and never talked to her again.  Ever.  Imagine someone you considered a mentor and someone you were so proud to share your success with being a jerk and cutting you out of their life forever.  And Jay Leno kept the ban alive through his whole tenure.   I wonder if it was part of his contract.

Not long after that her husband committed suicide.  And from there she picked herself up and made standing on the red carpet and not having a clue about who she was talking to most of the time her job.  She once said the worst thing she ever did was ask Anthony Hopkins if his companion was his mom (it was his wife).

Just watch her documentary A Piece of Work on Netflix.  She was awesome.  And THIS YEAR she made headlines by making a joke referencing those poor girls who were kidnapped for a decade in Ohio.  She was asked about living with her daughter and she said:

Those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space.

That of course offended people (including the victim) and she reminded everyone that offending someone is not actually a crime.

I’m a comedienne. I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke,” she said in an interview with local Cleveland paper The Plain Dealer.  There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down. Calm f–king down. I’m a comedienne. They’re free, so let’s move on.’

She then went on to tell TMZ “They got to live rent free for more than a decade.”  And when people wanted her to apologize for THAT she told them to suck it:

“One of them has a book deal. Neither are in a psych ward. They’re okay,” she said. “I bet you within 3 years one of them will be on ‘Dancing with the Stars.'”

Were her jokes mean?  Yes.  Did she care?  Not even a little.  Because she knew that the measure of a comic is not if their jokes are nice, it’s if they are funny.  Lots of the time hers were.  Not to say she didn’t bomb a lot.  She did.  All comics do.  She even wrote into a play she wrote in the 90s:

Anyone else who tries now to do what you did won’t do it right.  Because they will care about how people feel.  She didn’t.   She just cared if they laughed.  I will miss you, Joan Rivers.  I really will.