Compared to how women’s lives were described in the fifties – at least in the militaristic-Roman Catholic culture of my family – this seems quite textured. Earlier she was just freakish.
Female comics today like Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman are not as self-deprecating as Ms. Rivers and other female pioneers who were considered freakish just for daring to do stand-up. Acceptance then meant accepting the role of self-hating clown.
Onstage, Ms. Rivers was her own best target, ransacking her deepest insecurities for a laugh: her looks, her sex appeal, her marriage and even, a few years after he died, her husband’s suicide. She mocked aging and, most of all, her obsession with plastic surgery. In an interview on the occasion of her 80th birthday last year, Ms. Rivers said, “I’m celebrating with my 80th face.”