Joan Rivers crashed through the glass ceiling to become the first woman network talk show host on Fox-TV in 1987. With the Simpson’s as one of the nation’s favorite programs and Married with Children, Fox was hot in 1987 and Joan Rivers added to that customer service. Her television performance was always fresh because she always spoke her mind and she was an outspoken woman.
Joan Rivers died today at the age of 81 in New York after complications after having throat surgery. And in the end she could not speak. The irony is that Joan Rivers always said what she wanted to say. Her death today is sad because she was a pioneer for women with free speech and with her death today America loses her important contribution and service to the nation. Her freedom to speak her mind was valuable to the nation because only in America could a woman stand on a stage and be as cynical and irreverent as she wanted to be without fear of being imprisoned or killed by the state.
Joan Rivers, as the nation’s first network female talk show host, was a walking advertisement for the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It is not to say that speaking her mind did not get her into trouble. However, the present writer’s successful completion of his course of study in the Law of the Press there was no indication that Freedom of Speech meant free speech only when other Americans agreed with what you had to say. Joan Rivers said whatever she wanted to say and her critics knew it.
Many brave Americans gave their lives to give Joan Rivers and all Americans the right to free speech.
Watching the Joan Rivers Show was a lesson in free speech. Many Americans may have been turned off and tuned out because of her blunt and sometimes brutal assessment of American life and habits; however, it did not stop Joan Rivers from calling the shots as she saw them.
In a world where people are punished and murdered for their beliefs, America must hold on tight to the principals of free speech that Joan Rivers used every day of her long and brilliant career. Although she was criticized nationally for saying things that other people felt she should not have said. Rivers knew that in a democracy she had the right to say what she wanted to say and she said it.
Johnny Carson, the greatest network talk show host in history, introduced the nation to a funny lady who made millions of people laugh. Joan Rivers was funny. She could make facial expressions and gestures that caused laughter so hard it would cause people to fall over laughing. Even Bill Cosby, the favorite of all favorites, admitted that her standup comedy was very funny. And he promoted her career.
Writers write, comics make jokes, and actors act. Rivers, may she rest in peace, made people laugh. Yes, she made some people angry from time to time, at which she said, “Come on, it’s a joke. Get over it.”
Today the world lost a very funny lady in a time when the world needs laughter. And no one knew the passions she aroused better than Joan Rivers. Her book was titled, “I Hate Everybody, including Myself.” But Rivers really did not hate everybody. She gave money to numerous charities including the suicide prevention network because she cared. She said one of her great regrets was not calling Johnny Carson before the news leaked out that she would have a network television talk show that would be in direct competition to Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.
Rivers admitted that Carson believed in her at the start of her career. Carson, who was known for his fierce sense of loyalty and his expectations of loyalty in others, was deeply hurt that Rivers accepted a contract to do a talk show on the Fox network in 1987 that was in direct competition with Carson and The Tonight Show. She said that Carson hung up on her when she called to ask his forgiveness and he never spoke to her again for the rest of his life. He did not break his silence when her husband committed suicide over the failure of her television show.
Rivers tried to call Carson repeatedly but having broken the loyalty that Carson held so dearly, he died without ever speaking to her again.
Perhaps now that both of the talk show legends are in heaven a peace will be found. The television talk shows of the Carson-Rivers era created a nationwide forum for American homes the likes of which will never be seen on network television again. Ed McMahon’s “Heeere’s Johnny" with Rivers as guest host was a treat in Los Angeles in 1977 and it is still remembered by the present writer today. Joan Rivers served her nation well as the first woman to have her own network talk show on national television. She said in 1987 that she would never forget the experience of having her own talk show.
In 1981, as a talk show host for WNOK, the lessons of Rivers and Carson come to mind. Some lessons are never forgotten. Joan Rivers will always be the first woman to have her own network television talk show in America. May she rest in peace.