Joan Rivers sat down with CNN‘s Fredricka Whitfield during her ongoing promotional tour of her new book, Diary of a Mad Diva, and the conversation quickly turned chippy. Whitfield dressed her thorny questions with a playful demeanor and smiley coyness that Rivers clearly didn’t appreciate.
While the interview started off pleasant enough, Whitfiield complimenting Joan’s look, plastic surgery, and all of Rivers’ successes, Whitfield then shifts to calling Joan Rivers “mean,” saying, “Even with your fashion critiquing, while it’s very mean in some ways…”
Joan Rivers instantly defends herself, talking over the CNN hostess, saying, “It’s not mean, It’s not mean,” leaving the ever-smiling Whitfield to fall back on the increasingly popular comeback (for when you don’t have a comeback): “Really?”
Joan Rivers goes on to explain that she simply tells the truth, “just like (Whitfield’s) viewers while they’re sitting on the couch,” that her Fashion Police show is one of the few that is honest and will say, “That is an ugly dress.”
Whitfield then cranks it up a notch, questioning Joan Rivers’ care for other people’s “feelings” and some of the delicate subjects Rivers jokes about in her work, such as Casey Anthony’s baby and Princess Diana.
This prompts Joan Rivers to get more serious, discussing her humor and the positive role she believes humor can play in an often dark world:
“Life is very tough, and if you can make a joke to make something easier, and funny, do it, done, that’s all! Darling, I don’t know what your life has been like but I have a lot of people who’ve gone through hell… Winston Churchill said, ‘If you make someone laugh, you give them a little vacation,’ and maybe you take the worst thing in the world, make it funny, and it’s a vacation for a minute from horror.”
This thoughtful and gracious response from Joan Rivers is met with seeming praise for the comedienne by Whitfield, but this praise is quickly followed by the CNN hostess asserting that Joan Rivers tries to shock people, and that wearing a fur coat on the cover of her book proves it.
This apparently pushes Joan Rivers over the edge, as she clearly has had it with Whitfield, saying, “This whole interview is becoming a defensive interview.”
“No!” says Whitfield, laughing and throwing her hands to her face as she disappears behind her desk.
“Are you wearing leather shoes?” asks Joan.
“Yes,” chimes Whitfield.
“Then shut up,” says Joan, shifting to full attack mode. “You’re eating chicken, you’re eating meat — I don’t want to hear this nonsense! Come to me with a paper belt and I’ll talk to you.”
Joan finishes the interview with a flourish, tearing into Whitfield for asking nothing but “negative”, saying she was “put on earth to make people laugh, her book is funny, I wear fur that was killed 15 years ago… You are not the one to interview one who does humor. Sorry,” says Joan Rivers, exiting stage right.
Whitfield smiles awkwardly into the camera, the proverbial deer in the headlights, finally recovering enough to ask, “Is she serious?”
Given some time to reflect on her Joan Rivers interview, Whitfield expressed her collected thoughts on her Sunday show, explaining that asking Joan Rivers about the fur coat she is wearing on the cover of Diary of a Mad Diva, stemmed from the fact that animal rights protesters had crashed one of Joan Rivers’ July book signings, and she simply thought bringing up the fur subject would perhaps give Rivers the opportunity to have fun and riff on the situation.
But this interview strategy wasn’t seen in the same positive light by Joan Rivers.
Following her exit from the interview, Whitfield says that Joan Rivers still had her microphone on, allowing for some choice Joan Rivers expletives to continue coloring the CNN news room.
Of course Joan Rivers is no stranger to adversity, her brand of comedy often not sitting well with others and conflicting with their different sensibilities.
But with 50 years of comedy under her furs, scarves, and plastic surgery, Joan Rivers is clearly a national comedic treasure, her humor often targeting herself, as with this Fourth of July tweet — Classic Joan Rivers:
Love being old on July 4th. I don't need a flag – my legs are white and my veins are red and blue. I can just wave them around! #4thofJuly
— Joan Rivers (@Joan_Rivers) July 4, 2014