arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, September 08, 2014

“Can We Talk?”



Sure, we can talk. Or, actually, we’ll listen to you, Ms. Rivers, and you can talk like you have been talking to us for the last 50+ years. 

You know, tell us all the things about men and women’s roles in society. Oh, not the old roles where men went to work and could stay out all night if they wanted, while the women dutifully stayed at home and steadily grew more depressed about the role they were expected to play. These were roles your mother and her mother played…so, what’s your beef?

Ah, but this was the early 60s and revolution was in the air. This wasn’t a revolution fought with bullets, but rather voices raised in protest against the old ideas. The voices were heard in songs (Dylan, Pete Seeger) or in monologues coming from the coffee houses and clubs in the Village (Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory). Your voice rose with them, questioning the inequities of the old norms. After all, this was a world created, nurtured, and nourished by and for the happiness of the dominant white males. 

“Sez who?” your generation asked.

Of course, the men got all the press. Meanwhile, you waited in the wings, sometimes teamed with a couple of men in a club act and sometimes writing gags for a mouse puppet on The Ed Sullivan Show (Topo Gigio for those of you playing along at home.) The humor you performed back then was probably the type that was expected from a woman in a man’s world (or, in the case of the mouse, cute). It was also forgettable: none of the articles I have seen during the last few days quote anything you said or wrote during this time. No matter, the best was yet to happen and you would have the last word.

Then Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and suddenly the male chauvinist shit hit the fan.

Now, it was almost like you were given a license to point out the crap with which the opposite sex had to live. At the same time, there was a rising attitude to “tell it like it is”, and why not use this to manufacture the ideas that would become the bullets to tear and rip at society’s inequalities. So you told it like it is from a woman’s viewpoint, and because we were laughing so hard at your lines that we didn’t notice they were barbs aimed at firmly entrenched attitudes cherished by our fathers and their fathers.

Then, 1965, you had your big break on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and there was no looking back.

Good bye, Topo!

In the years since your voice spoke, sometimes shrilly, in clubs, on television talk shows (others and sometimes your own), and well, everywhere we could hear you. It seems oddly ironic that your heart stopped during a procedure on your throat. Seriously? Someone determined that there was something wrong with your voice that it needed a surgical procedure to correct. That joke is on all of us and now we’re paying the price.

In the days since your passing, you’ve been remembered as a comedy pioneer. You paved the way for a generation (or two) of female comedy artists. Somehow the term “comedienne” now sounds so, you know, old world.

Who can argue with that accolade? So, wherever you are now, Ms. Rivers, please keep talking. We’ll hear it one way or another.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Rivers!

(Thank you for reading. Surprise! There’s nothing more to say.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Bob Slatten said...

Gosh, I'm gonna miss her.

September 8, 2014 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Fearsome Beard said...

She was a treasure. Thanks for the laughter Joan!

September 8, 2014 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Harpers Keeper said...

Nicely written. Thanks

September 13, 2014 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, gentlemen, for checking in. She was unique.

September 14, 2014 at 5:15 PM  

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