Queen of Mean
Joan Rivers’s Best Insults (VIDEO)
As Fashion Police hits its 100th episode, The Daily Beast looks at its host’s shockingly unfiltered barbs. From Oprah to Sarah Palin, here’s a retrospective of the comedienne’s most outrageous moments.
Joan Rivers turns 100 today!
Rather, the vaunted comedienne’s E! channel talk show, Fashion Police, airs its 100th episode Friday, commemorating countless barbs about emaciated fashionistas, ceaseless ribbing on frumpy fashion fails, and years of her signature mixing of sartorial criticism with tell-it-like-it-is wit. As viewers of the show—which is co-hosted by Kelly Osbourne, Giuliana Rancic, and George Kotsiopoulos—and as fans can confirm, you come for the best-dressed lists, but stay for Rivers’s notoriously devastating barbs ridiculing the rich and famous.
As such, the Fashion Police milestone is a fitting occasion to look back at the trailblazing funnylady’s long career, revisit a few of the 79-year-old’s most offensive moments—fashion-related or otherwise. (Her uncouth joke about Princess Diana, for example: “If you ever want to go to Paris, fly. Don’t take the tunnel.”) Here’s a sampling of Rivers at her most outrageous.
Costco Is Like ‘Nazi Germany’
“Attention, Costco buyers … ” Rivers bellowed through a bullhorn at the Burbank, Calif., location of the superstore chain. Irked that the franchise refused to carry her memoir, I Hate Everything… Starting With Me, she told customers, “This is like the beginning of Nazi Germany,” before handcuffing herself to a shopping cart in protest. A sampling of the book’s racy content: “I hate Houston ... it’s crawling with bugs. Oh wait, that’s Whitney Houston; I’m sorry my bad. (Can I just mention that Whitney looked fabulous at the Grammys? She was in mahogany from head to toe.)” For context, Houston had died just months before.
Michelle Obama Is ‘Blackie O’
Not sure this counts, Joan. Rivers appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2011 and told an anecdote about how she once ditched a joke because she feared she’d be accused of racism. But then she told Stern the joke. The punchline, which Rivers argued was complimentary, concerned the first lady: “We used to have Jackie O, now we have Blackie O!” Even Stern’s sidekick Robyn Quivers questioned the joke’s taste: “Where’s the compliment in that? I’m looking and looking, I’m trying to find it.”
Oprah Needs to Lose Weight
In 1985, Oprah Winfrey—rocking some fierce shoulder pads, bedazzled fringe, white leggings, an electric-shock updo, and some extra weight—appeared on Rivers’s short-lived late-night talk show. She regaled her glory days as a beauty-pageant winter “50 pounds ago.” Rivers then went on the attack. “You shouldn’t let that happen to you!” Rivers chastised. “You’re a pretty girl, and you’re single. You need to lose the weight!”
Sarah Palin Is ‘Stupid and a Threat’
Things started off surprisingly cordial when TMZ asked Rivers about Sarah Palin in 2011. “I think she’s everything a strong woman should be,” Rivers began. “And she should go to another planet and show them, and get out of our face.” She also blamed Palin for the mass shooting in Arizona that killed six and injured Rep. Gabby Giffords and dozens more, calling her “stupid and a threat.” Rivers’s scheduled appearance on Fox & Friends was mysteriously canceled after her comments went viral.
Tommy Lee Jones, Worse Than Hitler?
Over the years, Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, have gabbed with an endless parade of celebrities. When asked on HDNet’s Naughty But Nice With Rob show who was the nastiest of all the A-listers they’ve talked to, both Rivers girls unequivocally said Tommy Lee Jones. “He makes Hitler look warm and fuzzy,” Mom Rivers said.
Elizabeth Taylor Is Fat
With Lifetime’s risible Liz and Dick movie earning reviews that read more like humor pieces than film criticism—and star Lindsay Lohan barreling her way back into late-night monologues with her recent arrest—it’s hard to remember that it used to be the film’s subject, Elizabeth Taylor, that was once the butt of everyone’s jokes. This 1983 clip mocking Taylor’s hard-to-ignore weight gain is a prudent reminder.
Chelsea Handler Is a ‘Whore’
Most female comedians working today are effusive in their reverence for Rivers, who paved the way for women in the industry and made it acceptable for them to be as raunchy as the boys. Chelsea Handler is not one of them. Handler told Howard Stern, “What the fuck do I care about Joan Rivers? I don’t think about her ever.” Appearing on Stern’s show soon after, Rivers ripped Handler a new one, saying she slept her way to the top (referring to ex-boyfriend, E! head honcho Ted Harbert) and for having no respect. “No. 1, the girl made it on her back fucking the president, we all know that, of the network,” Rivers ranted. “No. 2, she’s fine, she’s ordinary. She’s not a genius.”
Stars Are Insufferable
Not all of Rivers’s most brutal lines have been captured on camera. There’s her thoughts on Britney Spears: “I can’t wait for her career to be over so she can serve me coffee at 7-Eleven. She’s such white trash.” On Christina Aguilera: “Fatso … with that no-neck look.” And Madonna’s fashion sense: “… like a disco ball that had sex with a quilt.” In this clip, Rivers does lighting-round riffing on Lindsay Lohan (“she and the other car were smashed”), Justin Bieber (“a little lesbian”), and more.
Roasting the Roasters
Last year, Rivers threw herself to the comedic wolves and allowed herself to be the honoree of a Comedy Central roast. Semi-stars took her to task, including Kathy Griffin, Robin Quivers, and Brad Garrett. But taking the stage for her seven-minute rebuttal, Rivers had the last laugh, skewering comedian Greg Giraldo (“When I heard Greg Giraldo was going to be on the dais, I said ‘Who the fuck is Greg Giraldo?’ So I went and I Googled him and you know what it said? ‘Who the fuck is Greg Giraldo?’ “) and telling Gilbert Gottfried that he was so ashamed to be Jewish that he was “going to go to Malibu and give Mel Gibson a blow job!”
An Early Ed Sullivan Appearance
As deliciously unfiltered as Rivers has been over the decades and as many pampered celebrities as she has burned, it’s best to conclude this roast retrospective with proof the comedienne earned her place at the top of the industry by being genuinely funny, not just mean. This vintage clip of Rivers performing standup on a 1967 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show illustrates just that.