“I lost my whole family in Auschwitz. Seriously: I waited in the gift shop for hours…” —Joan Rivers
Taki’s particularly hydrophobic commenters will greet with disbelief the news that, as it turns out, I’m only 2 percent Jewish.
I’ll reveal the other 98 percent in my next column. For now, let’s all take note of this rarest of Venn diagrams: that is, a “blue moon” overlap between my own reaction and that of “14884EVR!!!” and his ilk.
I’m congenitally philosemitic, and was half-hoping to discover some genetic excuse for my condition via Ancestry DNA.
The funny part is, though, that the Jewish people and I actually have very little in common. There’s the whole “Jesus” thing, obviously. But, for instance, they obsess over food, while I find the very need to eat an annoying distraction.
Jews treasure their families; I was jealous of the kids in Lord of the Flies because they never had to deal with their parents again.
Even more heretically, I don’t think Mel Brooks is funny. In fact, the topic of comedy has proved to be a particularly touchy one: Whenever I declare that Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm foster more real-world anti-Semitism than the top 10 hate-iest Muslim hate preachers combined, my Jewish friends cast me piteous looks, because they love both shows.
I used to loathe Joan Rivers for the same reason.
For almost five years, I worked at Canada’s version of QVC, and the question I was asked most frequently was “Have you ever met Joan Rivers?” There was never a chance of that happening (I was nowhere near the production side), and that was more than fine with me. It wasn’t because Rivers hocked low-end costume jewelry; so did Ivana Trump, in the same studio, and I considered her a heroine—a savvy, unsinkable businesswoman who’d bounced back from the most notorious marital crack-up since Henry VIII.
But when Rivers did it… There was something so Fagin-esque about the way she fingered her wares, and rasped about “deals.” As I typed up descriptions of her faux Fabergé egg charm bracelets, I found myself fretting:
Was Joan Rivers good for the Jews?
Later, I kept hearing about how great the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was, finally watched it, and agreed. I still found Rivers cold and scary (and her “self-made Russian aristocrat” personal taste appalling) but acquired newfound respect for her bottomless drive. Watching her win Celebrity Apprentice by outworking contestants one-third her age was inspirational (if exhausting by proxy). But Rivers seemingly devoted almost as much energy to hands-on charity work and mundane, under-the-radar mitvahs as she did on her career.
(That’s one thing the Jews have on us: Yes, they’re expected to do good deeds too, but without the added burden of having to be nice while they’re at it. “Nice” is for the goyim.)
That A Piece of Work wasn’t nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar left her newfound fans confused, but it was also weirdly fitting, given the film’s theme: that this pioneering comedian had been in the public eye for so long that we took her for granted, and didn’t give her her due.
Was it because Rivers was a woman? some asked. Because she was Jewish? wondered far fewer.
Here’s my theory:
This fact is treated as ever-so-slightly freakish, akin to having a third nipple, by (otherwise detached if somewhat prolix) author Leslie Bennetts in the breezy new bio Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers.
In the book, Rivers confidante Sue Cameron sums up her friend’s reasoning: “I don’t want to be broke” and “I don’t want to be killed by an Arab” were the comedian’s two nonnegotiables, and she felt that the GOP were more likely than the Democrats to share those priorities.
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