Life Lessons from Joan Rivers

By Interview

Welcome to Life Lessons. This week, in honor of Gemini season, we revisit some of the most outlandish lines from our favorite Gemini— the late comedian and all-around icon Joan Rivers— as told to Interview in our November 1982, December 1984, and in January 1993 issues. Sit down and brace yourself—you just might learn a thing or two. 

“I voted as a New York voter because you can look better at the polls. You can wear a better outfit. I’m a very shallow voter … I voted in beige.”

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“The gay audiences are usually the brightest and the loyalest, and they’re the first to go out on a limb with someone. If I walk out on stage, and I see six gay guys out there, God bless, I know I’m going to be home free, that they’re going to understand and go with me.”

“We always have our public personalities—like if I’m going out to dinner with Cher and someone comes over to the table, we both snap into graciousness: ‘Hello, nice to meet you; oh, what a charming child.’ When you’re with other celebrities, you all have to become your persona, which is so different from what it was two minutes ago when you were all talking and eating.”

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“To me, life is a pet peeve. Nothing makes sense. Do you realize that everyone has to have a brilliant child in this society? Have you ever met anybody who has a stupid kid? Or have you ever met anyone who said, ‘I have an ugly grandchild’? I would like just once to have a grandparent come up to me and say, “Two pigs. They were so ugly we didn’t know which end to put the pacifier in.’ I have never heard anyone say, ‘My daughter gave birth to an oinker; we wash it in Woolite.’ That, and I’d like people to come out and say, ‘I stink in bed.’”

Joan Rivers photographed by Matthew Rolston for Interview, December 1984.

“When a comedian is really ugly and talks about it, it embarrasses the audience. But, you know, the women love it that I’m flat chested. It never bothered me and it was never a trauma in my life, but when I started talking about it I found that there are women who are really crazed over it. I say, if you’re that crazed, get $5,000 together and have boobs put in. A friend of mine says, ‘This is not the dress rehearsal; this is life.’ Do it. You’re not coming back. And don’t tell me that you don’t have enough time, or enough money, because there are second jobs and third jobs if you really want something. I have a wonderful plastic surgeon in Los Angeles. He has a motto: ‘In like a dog, out like a deb.’”

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“ I love New York, I love the city and the pace and the people. You wear a fur coat, and the women in New York are the best-looking in the world. The most pulled-together women, with the boots and the furs and the hats.”

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“I’ll tell you something. I am so bored with people who are successful and unhappy. I’m so lucky. I’m enjoying every minute of it; I’m reveling in it. I’m thrilled to be where I am, I love all the little goodies that come with it, and I’m not unhappy. I keep saying, these are the good years, and I know it. Remember Mama Cass? She hit it just before I did, and I asked her once what it felt like to be successful. She said, ‘It’s being able to walk into Bergdorf Goodman and you look around and you can have anything you really want.’ It’s fabulous. She loved her success and I feel the same way. Every time a limo pulls up, my heart beats faster.”

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I have news for you, if I had a great body, I would have done nude scenes. No question about it… I can’t say to you I’m a prude about that. If I had a great body and somebody wanted me to do it—absolutely—in a second. Good for Joan Collins. A lot of airbrushing there, but good for Joan Collins.”

Joan Rivers photographed by Matthew Rolston for Interview, December 1984.

“I would love [my daughter] to marry for money. But I think the only good money nowadays is inherited wealth. Two more years, I’m going to start dragging her across the country. I’m going to add it to the rider on my contract: ‘Miss Rivers requires Sanka coffee, fruit in the dressing room and the richest boys in St Louis. Single and straight.’”

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“One movie is finally going to get made, and it is going to go around very smoothly, because I think I’m very funny, she said humbly. But I do. My writing is obviously working. I’m filling 10,000-seat houses now. Big, big, big. And I’m filling them with young people, high school, college.”

“I’ve changed in that I’ve come to terms with myself and accept where I am now. Do you know what I’m saying? I know it sounds egotistical, but I deserved to get the Carson show. I never would have thought that two years ago. I’m very grateful, don’t misunderstand. But I also felt I was the one to do it. And even more importantly, psychologically I know I can do it. I walk on that stage now and I say, ‘Yeah, I belong here behind this desk. No question about it.’”

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“What haven’t I had done? I had my face done, I had my eyes done, I had my nose thinned a year ago… I had a facelift six years ago. Every woman should do it before you should have it done, because then they don’t notice you’ve had it done. That’s what I say to my friends, ‘Go early.’ I’d love to get a tummy tuck now. Anything to look better.”

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“What’s made me a success is that I’m average. We all think our feelings are special—’I’m the only one who can appreciate a sunset’—and then you realize oh, we all appreciate it. So we’re all shallow. I don’t think I’m particularly deep, no. But I’m happy being shallow. I have no friends, but I’m happy.”

Joan Rivers photographed by Matthew Rolston for Interview, December 1984.


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