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Joan Rivers: Die Laughing

A Pop Culture vs. The Bible Post

I think comedians are innately sad people. Or rather people who started their comedic journey as an effort to hide or heal themselves. Usually, you can hear in the way they express their humor which they are attempting to do. Hiders usually lash out – they have a sharp, harsh humor, most likely at someone else’s expense. Healers usually attempt first to be understood – they will share their experiences in as universal a way as possible.

I didn’t know what to think about Robin Williams when his death was reported. I was certainly disconcerted hearing that he had taken his own life, but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve learned through my own trials that the loudest laughs chortled through the deepest sorrow. It wasn’t until Joan Rivers died that I understood better the nuance I couldn’t quite put my finger on with Robin. He was a healer. He was a gifted comedian who created a space to bring forth genuine laughter. A true sadness of his death is that, in that unalterable moment, he allowed his gloom to overcome his gift.

The Friday following Joan Rivers’ death I watched two hours of televised tributes to her. I didn’t laugh once.

Initially, I watched out of curiosity. After a while, I was repelled by disgust. By the end of the second hour, I was quite sad for the life she had lived.

Bitter. Self-hater. Shallow. Unfulfilled. These words describe her own commentary about her life and career.

Iconic. Legendary. Trailblazer. These are the words her friends, admirers and reporters used in their commentary regarding her. They wanted to be like her. Many interviewed for the tribute specials, credited Joan  with their success; they didn’t think they would be where they were had she not gone before. Yet in the same specials, Joan herself rejected their praise disdainfully. However, she desperately wanted everyone’s adulation.

In her own words, Joan wanted the end of her life to look like the excesses of Hollywood culture.

Joan Rivers. When I die quote.png
from “I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me” by Joan Rivers, 2012

Perhaps that’s the saddest thing to me and it speaks volumes about what she valued most in her life. She wanted to be seen. She wanted to make headlines. She wanted to be photographed and sang over by other celebrities. I understand that she was a comedian and irreverence was her Schlick,  but regardless of what she did and what she believed, words have creative power. She painted a portrait of a woman who was never satisfied with who she was, what she had achieved or what she had. She lived in fear of going broke, being rejected,  and not being wanted or loved. Truthfully, if I allowed fear to ride me, those would be the top incapacitators. You may have similar fears (of varying degrees). This is not uncommon. However, not all of us tear other people down in order to hide our own insecurities.

Joan Rivers. I Hate Everyone Starting With Me Cover
“I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me” by Joan Rivers, 2012

Joan Rivers made a career out of belittling people and calling her words “humor”. The point of this post is not to deride the departed, but to warn the living.

Joan’s demons are not reserved for fame-seekers, her demons are common to all of mankind. (1 Peter 4:12). The demons, aka the enemy, insinuate themselves in our thoughts. Thoughts transform into desires and desires become plans. Suddenly we’re on a path living a life we didn’t really want for ourselves, but the attention and worldly benefits are misconstrued as blessings. Before long we are giving no care or concern to our spiritual health or needs. Everything becomes about the here and now and the outer image – how others see us and our trappings of success and popularity.

That is not a well-lived life. It is an empty life. A very unfortunate way to choose to live.

Joan Rivers knew that and she told us with every joke she uttered. Her audience may have forgotten or chose to rename what she was selling but she was clear: hate was her product. She was a hider who hid in plain sight. She dressed her hate up in glamour and the masses ate of it.

Who follows someone who hates themselves and everybody else? People who also hate themselves, those who don’t see any beauty or truth in who they are.

There is another way – a fulfilling way to live and die. A way  of love and self-acceptance. Reject fear. Embrace who you are. Nurture the good  in you and minister to the needs-improvement-and-betterment areas. Be an example of self-care and love and eventually you will inhabit a community full of similarly loving people.

Be blessed as you go and check the company you keep while you’re going.

Psalm 1, NLT

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli