Joan Rivers died today and that sucks. She was 81.
Joan Rivers was great because she had the smarts of Joan Rivers and the fire of Joan Rivers. She had no contemporaries and didn't need them. She's also had such a spectacular and versatile career that it's easy to overlook some of her stranger accomplishments. Here are nine things we wish more people appreciated about Joan.
1. She wrote a bad-ass, hilarious comedy called “The Girl Most Likely To.”
Stockard Channing plays a young, plain girl who gets in a car crash, undergoes dramatic plastic surgery, and finds that as a beautiful person, her life is transformed. It's edgy as hell and damn funny. It's ahead of its time. And Joan wrote it.
2. She read encyclopedias to prepare for her one-liners on “Hollywood Squares.”
3. She defined our current version of red carpet coverage.
Everything you see Giuliana Rancic, Ryan Seacrest, and Kelly Osbourne do on a red carpet is an imitation — and often a paltry imitation — of a style Joan Rivers invented in the mid '90s. She proved that cynicism and commentary could actually add to the fun of a red carpet without taking away from the event or glamor at hand. You could tell which celebrities ruled based on how they reacted to Joan Rivers. According to her, one of the best and goofiest celebrities is Nicole Kidman. I love Nicole Kidman for that.
4. There is no more dada talk show appearance than her moment with Sean Young dressed as Catwoman.
A certain type of celeb could really let it all hang out with Joan. Watch this incredible, mind-boggling talk show appearance from Sean Young and try not to purr in shock.
5. Her literal card catalog of jokes is staggering.
The highlight of her 2010 documentary “A Piece of Work” is, without a doubt, a glimpse at Joan's amazing card catalog of jokes. A card catalog. A veritable library of rancor. There are tabs in the catalog like “plastic surgery,” “age,” and various celebrity names. This is a woman who took her job so seriously that she never wanted to lose a single moment of brilliance. I hope it all goes to the Smithsonian.
6. Up until her death, she knew everything about everybody.
Her “In Bed with Joan Rivers” web series was a kickass interview show. She could grill everyone from RuPaul to Jenna Marbles on the fly and look informed doing it.
7. She is the funniest part of “Spaceballs.”
God bless Mel Brooks (if he was solely responsible) for casting Joan Rivers in “Spaceballs” as the wisecracking C-3PO parody character Dot Matrix. She trailed Daphne Zuniga with one-liners and that endlessly saucy rasp.
8. She was really tapped into gay culture.
When the drag documentary “Paris is Burning” came out in 1990, Joan invited the movie's cast of ferocious drag queens to her talk show to discuss gay and ball culture. She never flinched at anyone for being weird, and that's a secret to Joan's appeal: her innate, sound sensitivity.
9. She could always, always, always take a joke.
Joan knew that edgy, biting comedy was a two-way street. As much as she threw down jokes about other celebrities, she was constantly joking about herself and cackling at others' jokes about herself. Her roast? Is perfection.
Rest in peace, Joan. Or better yet, don't. Stay rowdy and real.