Comedian Joan Rivers stood up fearlessly for the funny

Sep 05 2014, 01:24 IST
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SummarySo she made fears evaporate, at least for a moment. She blew them up with relish.

Joan Rivers was fearless.

Or, to be more accurate, a humorist who fearlessly spun fears into gold.

They were golden, Rivers' potshots, put-downs and zingers (often aimed at herself) that mocked a world of vanities, foolishness and, yes, fear.

''The trouble with me is, I make jokes too often,'' she told The Associated Press in 2013. ''That's how I get through life. Life is SO difficult - everybody's been through something! But you laugh at it, it becomes smaller.''

So she made fears evaporate, at least for a moment. She blew them up with relish.

She was known as acerbic or even cruel, but often there was bitter honesty in the humor, and anyway her targets were big enough to take it. When she famously joked about Elizabeth Taylor's obesity (''She has more chins than a Beijing phone book'') both Taylor and phone customers in Beijing handily withstood the assault.

She didn't spare her own Jewishness, or larger Jewish sensibilities. (At least one of her jokes invoked the Nazi Holocaust and sparked an outcry from the Anti-Defamation League.) But offstage she took her Jewish identity seriously. Just last March, she quietly got inked at a Manhattan tattoo parlor with a tiny ''6M'' on the inside of her arm, a personal reminder of the six million Jews who died under the Nazis.

For her, even the Grim Reaper was fair game.

Last summer, Rivers - then 80 - rocked her audience at a Manhattan club when, midway through her set, she pretended to have a seizure. A moment later, satisfied she had punked the room, she teased those present by observing how they would have loved to see her drop dead in mid-act. Sure, it would be shocking and sad, she chortled. But what a great story to be able to tell afterward!

Then it was on with the show.

A tiny dynamo, Rivers never, decade after decade, slowed her manic pace, juggling standup dates, TV shows, books, and her jewelry and fashion line, with blatant disregard for her accumulating years.

''I have never wanted to be a day less than I am,'' she insisted during that 2013 interview. ''People say, `I wish I were 30 again.' Nahhh! I'm very happy HERE. It's great. It gets better and better. And then, of course, we die.''

But even acknowledging the stale breath of mortality, Rivers pledged to work ''forever,'' and, meanwhile, gave

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