Joan Rivers Has Become The Thing That You Know When You See It

3 years ago

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously defined obscenity as something he knows when he sees. The "you know it when you see it" defense is indefinable, but yet people generally agree there are lines in society. We know when they've been crossed. We just know. Recently Joan Rivers' positively awful behavior rendered Joan herself as that indefinable thing. She's gone from critical to contemptible, and now we must throw our collective hands up and beg her to please just stop. Just stop. Really. You're not funny at all. To anyone.

(Credit Image: © Zelig Shaul/Ace Pictures/

What did she do? She went on the TODAY Show and joked "those women in Cleveland" had a better set-up than her daughter's guest bedroom. And then, as if that weren't enough, she said they got to live rent-free for ten years. She's talking, of course, about Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, who were held captive for ten years in Cleveland by Ariel Castro. While they were held captive, truly horrible things happened to them. I don't further reference the things that happened because they are so bad.

When the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, interviewed her, Joan said:

“I’m a comedienne,’’ she said. “I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke. There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down. Calm f------ down. I’m a comedienne. They’re free, so let’s move on.’’

Then she told TMZ:

Joan tells us [TMZ] she WON'T apologize, telling them to lighten up, adding, "One of them has a book deal. Neither are in a psych ward. They're ok. I bet you within 3 years one of them will be on Dancing with the Stars."

Over at The Stir, Linda Sharps points out myriad other horrific things Joan has said in the past and asks if this is different. I do think it is. What she said about Heidi Klum is the only tasteless joke that truly approaches what Joan said about the Cleveland women. Holocaust jokes are never funny, period, but I think that the Cleveland joke went even farther into the bowels of hell because it mocked the women's direct, real-life experiences. Not their religion or their race or their hair or their weight, but their pain. Joan mocked their pain. And now she wants everyone to just calm the fuck down.

I'm sorry I couldn't find the animated gif for the heavens opening up and locusts dropping.

The statement released by Amanda Berry's and Gina DeJesus' attorneys:

Our clients have become aware of Joan Rivers’ unfortunate comparison of living in her daughter’s guest room to their captivity. We understand that Ms. Rivers is a comedienne; however, the idea that a celebrity would say something this hurtful, on national television no less, is beyond shocking and disappointing. Our clients are strong, private women who have endured unwanted and often painful media attention for quite some time. They now have to endure this, which is a new low, and we believe a sincere apology is warranted.

So I suppose we do the only thing that will get Joan's attention: stop giving her money.

Does anyone think Joan SHOULDN'T apologize?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of Find more at

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