I was ten years old the first time I paid attention to Joan Rivers. I was sitting in my grandparents’ apartment stuffing my face with pasta marinara at the kitchen table. I heard a woman’s voice on the television behind me say something absolutely hilarious. I turned around and there was Joan.
I don’t remember what she said, but I know it was filled with inappropriate madness and about as many curses as my Aunt Ana would spit out during any given dinner. I instantly loved her.
You see, Joan reminded me of my grandmother’s Brooklyn-born sisters, only Joan was even funnier. She was blunt, she was honest, she wasn’t afraid to tell you what she actually thought, and she had a way of making you think about the absurdity of life, humanity, relationships, and all the crazy things we say and do. In a world of people who thought before they spoke so as not to offend this person or that one, Joan just told you the truth. In a world where comedy became more and more neutered every year by those afraid to offend, Joan wasn’t about to censor herself.
When it came to comedy, Joan Rivers was simply brilliant.
About eight years ago, I was in Midtown Manhattan with a friend. We walked out of a building and about thirty feet away, there was Joan. I didn’t say anything to her, didn’t want to be one of those people saying, “Hey Joan, I love you, can I have a picture?” So, I said nothing. We walked right past her and I could hear her telling a story to a woman beside her. All I can tell you is that the woman was hysterical laughing. It didn’t surprise me. That was our Joan.
Looking back, I wish I would’ve said something to her. It would’ve been lame, and I likely would’ve looked like a silly fan, but it would’ve been worth it to hear her response. I would’ve captured a little bit of her live act, right there on a Manhattan street. I kick myself quite often for saying nothing. The truth is that every now and then, God creates someone with en enormous gift that the rest of us almost can’t comprehend. If you find someone like that standing in front of you, you should never hesitate to share in a little bit of their brilliance.
I grew up in a crazy Italian house. As I’ve said on TV, Nanny often chased Poppy around the kitchen with a wooden spoon (or other kitchen item of her choosing). My grandmother’s sisters cursed like truck drivers and outdid any hilarious Italian film character you can imagine. There was lots of good food, inappropriate jokes, and stories that would make you blush. Nanny’s sisters had street smarts that would knock your socks off. They knew Brooklyn, they knew family, and they knew how to be real.
I guess that’s why I always loved Joan Rivers.
Joan, wherever you are, thank you for making me laugh through life’s difficult days. Thank you for reminding me how much I love Brooklyn and all the craziness that it sometimes brings. Thank you for not editing a single joke because someone, somewhere, might get offended. And thank you for teaching so many young talents how to bring life to a stage, fill a room with laughter, and never forget the power of the truth.
We miss you already. Try not to make the angels blush. And for heaven’s sake, do your best to keep my grandfather out of trouble up there.
Jedediah Bila is co-host of “Outnumbered” on Fox News at 12pm ET. She is an author, columnist, and Fox News Contributor. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.