I Hate Everybody...
Starting With Me: A Shocking Book Review
by Roz Warren
Joan Rivers is
a woman whose comfort zone is being outrageous. What
reviewer in her fifties wouldnt find
that at least a little bit appealing? Growing up
female in the middle of the last century, we were
socialized to be nice, to be kind, to be
supportive, and above all, not to make waves.
Theres something compelling about a woman
who took none of that to heart, whose basic
attitude is screw kindness and who,
instead, gleefully cuts loose with the venom. If
venom is what youre looking for,
Rivers new book, I Hate Everybody..
Starting with Me, wont disappoint.
Its as offensive as it is funny.
Everybody, in theory a compendium of
everything Rivers despises, is really just an
excuse to unleash a flood of new one-liners,
jokes and heartfelt (and often heartless)
kvetches. Its nonstop schtick, running
the gamut from clever, harmless fun (I
dont know if the Ivory Coast has any actual
ivory in it, but I respect it because its
the only country named after two deodorant soaps.)
through derisive observation (I hate people
who cant walk two blocks without drinking
water. How thirsty can you be? Did you have a
block of salt for lunch?) and on to the
truly tasteless. (Every time I see
some altacocker sitting at a card table hunching
over and wheezing, I want to yell, Get in
the box Mildred! Its time to get in the box!)
something shocking on every page. And something
that will crack you up. Sometimes, its
the same thing.
I love it when
a joke offends me but is so undeniably funny I
have to laugh anyway. It stretches my brain. It
blows my mind. And its a Joan Rivers
specialty. I couldnt be more supportive of
nursing in public yet I cracked a smile at:
Breast feeding is a natural body function?
So is urinating, but do you want me to take a
piss right here on the bus?
fun of celebrities, the wealthy and anyone else
who is smug and entitled. But she also mocks the
handicapped, people with Downs Syndrome, Ann
Frank, the elderly, and, of course, Jews. When
she says she hates everyone, she means it.
Id planned to quote the books
most offensive line, but so much of Joans
wit is so ludicrously off-putting that I quickly
gave up. There was just too much competition. Im
not easily offended and I was horrified by many
of these jokes.
But I loved
many more. A few of my favorites:
consider cooking to be one of the true wonders of
the world, like the great pyramids of Giza or the
Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the unexplained
success of Carrot Top.
to the New York Times, one teaspoon of sperm
contains 148 calories, or, if youre on
Weight Watchers, two points.
comes into my dressing room and says,
Id like you to meet my lady. I
said, When were you knighted?
When a famous
actors tells her that his wife, a vegan,
doesnt eat anything with eyes, Joan
responds: You must have a shitty sex life.
famously driven. But fame and success have
failed to make her happy. In the books
title she claims to hate herself and, reading it,
you wont doubt that for a moment.
Theres always been a strong element of self
loathing in her comedy. Her fearlessness and
honesty may delight and refresh us, but hers is
the wit of a bitter woman. Shes been
funny for longer than almost anyone else is show
business. Shes outlived most of the folks
who have wronged her (which is something Rivers,
an avid obituary reader, clearly relishes.)
Shes worked tirelessly for everything
shes achieved, and its been an uphill
battle all the way. You may find this book
offensive. I know I did. But I have nothing but
admiration for Rivers, if only because she tore
up the nice girl rules most of us
were raised with and wrote her own.
Everybody is a quick read. You can zip
through it in a day. Shudder at the lines that
offend you and snicker at the ones that amuse you.
Youll laugh! Youll wince! And
youll want to celebrate the fact that
Rivers, still going strong at 79, excelling at a
job she clearly loves, and continuing to rewrite
the rules to suit herself, remains a
role model for us all.
first appeared on www.womensvoicesforchange.org.)