Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things

Share

When an 81-year-old showbiz legend was rushed to hospital on Thursday, nobody cracked any tasteless jokes. Not out of a sense of decency, but because the only comedian with the balls to do that is Joan Rivers, and this time Joan Rivers was the one attached to the ventilator.

This is the woman who called our beloved Adele "fat" and described Kim and Kanye's baby (a baby!) as "desperately in need of a waxing". Nor does she restrict her sharp tongue to celebrities. In a television interview Rivers complained about staying in her daughter's guest room by saying, "Those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space!" In the midst of the most recent bombings of Gaza she said Palestinians "deserve to be dead". There's no two ways about it; Joan Rivers is awful. But she's also wonderful and I think, not in spite of but because of the fact that she's forever saying appalling things.

As a bona fide survivor of 50 years in the biz and a pioneer for women, Rivers would be a prized addition to the feminist icon hall of fame, if only she'd allow herself to be inducted. But as she recently told an interviewer, Rivers finds the gushing praise of bright young fangirls actively repugnant: "I'm still breaking barriers and I can still take you sweetheart, with both hands tied behind my back." She saves her meanest barbs for other women, particularly other women in entertainment. It's telling that one of her fiercest feuds is with Chelsea Handler, a US comedian whose career path closely matches that of Rivers.

When I saw Rivers live last year (packed room, sold-out show) she was marching up and down the stage, telling jokes which made the audience laugh and gasp in equal measure. The closest she ever got to sisterly supportiveness is also a fair summation of her comic worldview: "Think like a second wife. You grab and you take. You grab and you take. And when you die, whatever you got out of him you have buried on you. If the next bitch wants it, make her dig for it."

Rivers makes you dig for it, all right, but underneath, there's a heart of gold. It's there in her 1997 memoir-cum-self help book Bouncing Back, in which she discusses how she overcame the suicide of her husband, bulimia, bankruptcy, public humiliation and industry sexism, and chucks in a few jokes for free. For people going through difficult times, it's a full of empathy, but as for sympathy? Forget it.

As Rivers herself would say, screw kindness, here's the truth instead. Women are so often, and in so many ways, told to be polite and nurturing that it's still a thrill to see a women who isn't polite or nurturing, who always misbehaves. I hope Joan Rivers gets well soon, lives to 110 and never stops saying mean things to people who definitely don't deserve it. That woman is an inspiration, whether she likes it or not.

The writing's on the wall

Senior police officers aren't known for their contemporary art critiques, but Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, is different. "Social media in some instances has replaced graffiti as a way of making your views heard," he told the Scottish Police Authority. "My view is that 10 to 15 years ago, that would have been sprayed on the side of a building."

If Twitter is the 21st century's toilet wall, will tweets follow the same trajectory as "street art"? Transforming from public nuisance to private investment? I encourage you all to bid quickly on my tweet-piece dated July 31, signed @MsEllenEJones: "In Costa Coffee. No almond croissants :( #BreakfastFail". It can't be long before Saatchi wants to add it to his collection.

The value of investments may go down as well as up. Fashions can go out as well as in, but when all the Banksys have been cut down and sold off by the council, what we're left with is the really timeless bit. The obscene scribbles, inarticulate anger and nonsensical boasts of graffiti are as old as human nature. Ask the archeologists who discovered 300,000-year-old hand prints in the Chauvet caves in France. Or the historian who found a 400-year-old picture of some boobs on the wall at Hampton Court Palace. Or ask Sir Stephen, the senior police officer. Whatever the forum, it seems people will always have the urge to go public with their private grumbles.

At the centre of trouble

This week a judge awarded a five-figure sum to an ex-operations manager at EE's Darlington call centre, who was unfairly dismissed following an incident in which one employee was kicked unconscious by another. But here's what everyone really wants to know; how is it that an ordinary day at the office could end in a brawl?

It really was just an ordinary day at the office. In fact, as the judge observed, that's the issue. Work in the call centre was "somewhat mundane and repetitive" he said, resulting in "occasional incidents of banter" (the targeted employee called it "bullying") which eventually turned violent.

If you've worked in a soul-sucking office environment, you'll know prank culture is not unique to EE's Darlington branch. It's common in any workplace where being bored out of your mind is part of the job description. The more boring, the more "banter". Still, it's come to something when "bored to death at work" is no longer a figurative expression.

Watch this space

Isn't it great when an idle whinge conveniently aligns with a noble cause? There I was, wishing and hoping that my favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, would make a programme with more pizazz than his current Jamie's Comfort Food series, when along came the Government with another "woefully inadequate" attempt to improve hospital meals. Good nutrition is a basic requirement for good health – that much is obvious to everyone – and yet the health department has persistently failed to bring the NHS up to the standards requested by campaigners. Jamie, turn your concerns into a campaign will you? Your country needs you. And so does my TiVo planner.

The vow wow

Kimye spent a reported $2.8m turning their wedding into the ultimate glamorous shindig. How galling, then, to be outdone in the style stakes by Brangelina's secret marriage. How was this feat of chic achieved? By holding it in France and not releasing a single picture to the public. Quel raffinement!

twitter.com/@MsEllenEJones

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness