BENEVOLENT DESPOT

09.05.14

What Joan Rivers Said She Would Do If She Were Dictator of America

She was a legendary—and infamous—comic, author, and talk show host. But what would she be like as leader of a country? Here’s what she said in 1972.

Trailblazing comedian and troublemaker Joan Rivers died on Thursday at the age of 81. She led a reliably epic and wild life, powered by a brand of comedy that regarded nothing as beyond the pale. When people were offended by her jokes about fellow celebrities, 9/11, or the Holocaust, she would simply advise them to “grow up.” When she got dead serious about politics—civilian casualties in Gaza, for instance—she would often take a similar approach of outrage-courting shock value.

She was a legendary—and infamous—comic, author, and talk show host. But what would she be like as leader of a country?

We will, of course, never know for sure, but thanks to Rivers’s own (albeit tongue-in-cheek) words and rants, we have a pretty good idea of how she would rule if she were installed as dictator of the United States. It was 1972, the Vietnam War was raging, and she and her then husband Edgar Rosenberg sat down with UPI to discuss American politics and her vision for an improved political system.

"I should be queen,” Rivers insisted. “Think of the millions of dollars we'd save in presidential campaigns. And we wouldn't have to redecorate the White House every four years.”

“I would enslave them even more and liberate men so they would start behaving like men again. I'll visit the peasants around the country and make the women go on diets.”

Decades later, in the heat of the 2012 elections (during which Rivers called both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney “idiots”), she had a similarly disgusted opinion of the amount of money spent in presidential campaigns.

Rivers continued on her political, authoritarian monologue by describing what kind of tyrant she would be.

“I'm not for upheaval,” she told UPI. “I would be a benevolent despot. If you have a great person in charge then a benevolent dictator is wonderful. By a process of elimination I arrived at myself. I will move into the White House, but keep an apartment in New York, a house in Beverly Hills and a hunting box in Central Park. And I'll be a crooked queen on the take. I'll appear at fashion shows and get the clothes free...But at least I wouldn't run up food bills like the Nixons and the Johnsons. I'm on a diet.”

And then she riffed on women’s rights, the war, and how liberal democracy might just be the latest in a long series of humanity’s failed experiments.

“The Democratic system doesn’t work,” she said. “When I become queen I would keep the war going, but the soldiers wouldn't use live ammunition. After all, entertainers have to go somewhere to find audiences. Another thing, I would stop the women's [liberation] movement. I would enslave them even more and liberate men so they would start behaving like men again. I'll visit the peasants around the country and make the women go on diets. There'd be full employment. I could use 100 men just to clean the windows in this house. Look, Jackie Kennedy has had her day in the sun. Now it's my turn. After all I'm just a simple, unspoiled girl who wants to become queen. What's wrong with that?”

Yeah, this sounds like a perfect recipe for violent uprising against Joan Rivers. But, hey, at least we’d have full employment.

RIP, Queen Rivers.

Joan Rivers: A Life In Photos

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James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty