Author Interviews
6:51 am
Sat June 28, 2014

Life Is Tough, Says Joan Rivers, So 'You Better Laugh At Everything'

Originally published on Sat June 28, 2014 11:43 am

Comedian Joan Rivers got a diary from her daughter for the holidays a while back, and at first she was upset. Then, she reflected: Maybe it's a chance for her to save and share her wisdom. Like this entry from Feb. 16:

Woke up not feeling well. I spent the entire day online on WebMD. ... I can say with 100 percent certainty that I have pleurisy, tuberculosis, brain stem cancer or an enlarged prostate. I found a great cure for whatever ails you. God bless the Internet! A coffee enema. ... The only negative: I can never go back to Starbucks.

Rivers' new book is called Diary of a Mad Diva. She joins NPR's Scott Simon to discuss her least favorite phrases, her comedy style and what it's like to be in her 80s.


Interview Highlights

On how much plastic surgery she's really had

I was very lucky. I had a friend who was a plastic surgeon, so he would do little things. I never had like a full thing. So I would go in maybe once every two or three years, and he'd do a little here, a little there; tweak you, like you tweak your car. Then I became the plastic surgery poster girl.

On why she dislikes the phrase "my bad"

It's silly! I mean, there [are] certain things that "my bad" does not cover. A woman [who] sleeps with your husband and breaks up your marriage and then they all commit suicide can't walk in and go, "Yeah, I slept with your husband, ruined your marriage, ruined your life — my bad!" No, not good enough!

On why she dislikes the phrase "good job"

I [don't exercise] at this age — I lift like 2-pound weights. And this gorgeous girl who's 26 years old with a body, you know, of a movie star, she says to me, "Good job." ... That's not a "good job," that's an old lady trying to get away with murder.

On whether she's made a shtick of saying things others would hesitate to say

I've never thought of it consciously. ... I say exactly what I think and very often it's totally politically incorrect. I get, always, chastised for it. So it's not shtick. But I think I'm the one who says, "The emperor has no clothes."

And I also think – serious for a second? ... Life is so tough. I don't know how old you are, but I've seen so much in a wink. One phone call and your life is changed forever. We all know that. You better laugh at everything. And people get very upset with me.

On being in her 80s

Loss. Loss. Loss. That's what the final act is about. I look back at the amount of friends I've [lost] — and I'm talking good friends, you know — that's the hard part. There's no one to call up and have the same memory bank. ... Nobody wants to hear that you met Harry Truman. ... I met Harry Truman. ... But you know what I mean? Nobody's interested. They want to know you met Rihanna. And that kills me.

On still loving her career

I adore working. I am so – do you know how lucky I am? At this age, I have [a TV show,] Fashion Police, I have an Internet show, In Bed With Joan, and I just started something now called Drunken Celebrity Phone Calls. It's incredible. ...

Show business is — you're there by somebody's fluke. And as long as somebody likes you and the show is going well, you're fine. I'd do anything. There's so much I want to do.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Joan Rivers got a diary from her daughter for the holidays a while back. And at first, she was upset. Then she reflected. Maybe it's a chance for her to save and share her wisdom like this entry from February 16.

(Reading from diary) Woke up not feeling well. I spent the entire day online on WebMD. I can say with a hundred percent certainty that I have pleurisy, tuberculosis, brainstem cancer or an enlarged prostate. I found a great cure for whatever ails you - a coffee enema. The only negative - I could never go back to Starbucks.

I can't read this. Joan Rivers' new book is called "Diary of a Mad Diva." She joins us from New York. Thanks so much.

JOAN RIVERS: Oh, it makes me so happy when you laugh.

SIMON: Well, it's funny. I have to ask you, do you have as much plastic surgery as you say you do or is it kind of like Dean Martin and his drinking?

RIVERS: It's very much like Dean Martin and his drinking, you know. And it just became a very easy target and a very easy thing to make fun of. Well, I did have - I had a friend. I was very lucky. I had a friend who was a plastic surgeon. So he would do little things. I never had like a full thing.

So I would go in maybe once every two to three years. And he'd do a little here and a little there - tweaking like you tweak a car. And then I became the plastic surgery poster girl.

SIMON: I think you're saying here that you could (laughing). I'm sorry. I can't say this with a straight face - that you could now floss your molars with your stitches. (Laughing).

RIVERS: Yes. (Laughing).

SIMON: Alright. So at one point you've got a section where you expand on some phrases that you don't like. Can I ask you about a few?

RIVERS: The stupid phrases that are around now, yes.

SIMON: Well, like when people say, you know, my bad.

RIVERS: It's silly. I mean, there are certain things that my bad does not cover.

SIMON: Yeah.

RIVERS: A woman sleeps with your husband or breaks up your marriage and then they all commit suicide - can't walk in and go, yeah. I slept with your husband, ruined your marriage, ruined your life - my bad. No, not good enough. The other one - good job.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah, OK.

RIVERS: Do you exercise?

SIMON: Yes, I do.

RIVERS: Well, you know, I do nothing at this age. I lift like two-pound weights. And this gorgeous girl, who's 26-years-old, a body, you know, of a movie star, she says to me good job. That's not a good job. That's an old lady trying to get away with murder.

SIMON: Have you - at this point in your career - have you made a kind of shtick out of saying the kind of things that other people would hesitate to say?

RIVERS: That's a wonderful question. I've never thought of it consciously, but I've always felt from the beginning - and I'm still getting tremendous flack. I say exactly what I think. And very often, it's totally politically incorrect. And I get always chastised for it.

So it's not a shtick. But I think I'm the one that says the emperor has no clothes. And I also think - serious for a second - life is so tough. I don't know how old you are, but I have seen so much. In a wink - one phone call and your life is changed forever. We all know that.

SIMON: Can I ask you a question that - it's kind of drawn from the way you talk about turning 80 in the book. But...

RIVERS: Right.

SIMON: My mother, who unfortunately left us - which by the way is not a - my mother who unfortunately...

RIVERS: Died.

SIMON: ...Died. Right. I don't like the euphemisms 'cause it makes it sound like we took her to Costco...

RIVERS: (Laughing) Yeah.

SIMON: ...And, you know, left her in aisle three and lost my mother.

RIVERS: (Unintelligible).

SIMON: Yeah. My mother died - my mother died last summer. But one of the things she said to me that was hardest about getting into her 80s was that everybody she'd ever called her best friend was gone.

RIVERS: Loss, loss, loss - that's what the final act is about. I look back at the amount of friends - and I'm talking good friends, you know. That's the hard part. There's no one to call up and have the same memory bank.

SIMON: You know what else my mother said? You should talk to more people in their 80s because they've looked across the street at death for a decade. And they know what's really important in life.

RIVERS: Your mother was smart. Now, I'm talking as one of the people in the 80s. Nobody wants to hear that you met Harry Truman, you know. Shh.

SIMON: (Laughing) You didn't meet Harry Truman, did you?

RIVERS: I met Harry Truman. But you know what I mean? Nobody's interested. They want to know you've met Rihanna, and that kills me.

SIMON: You know what really stands out for me in your book most of all?

RIVERS: Uh-oh.

SIMON: You love your daughter. You love your grandson. And you love working.

RIVERS: I adore working. I am so - do you know how lucky I am? At this age, I have "Fashion Police." I have an Internet show "In Bed With Joan." And I just started something now called "Drunken Celebrity Phone Calls." It's incredible.

SIMON: And that's why I found it funny - you've got this entry on October 7, where you say, quote, "my career is in the toilet."

RIVERS: Yeah. Well, I think that every day - every day, that your career is over.

SIMON: Is that part of what sends you forward?

RIVERS: Totally. Show business is - you're there by somebody's fluke. And as long as somebody likes you and the show is going well, you're fine. I'd do anything. There's so much I want to do.

SIMON: Joan Rivers in New York. Her new book "Diary of a Mad Diva." Thanks so much.

RIVERS: A pleasure, a pleasure, a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.