24th Jul 2012
I Hate Everyone… Starting With Me by Joan Rivers
In a showbusiness career that has spanned over fifty years, Joan Rivers has become known for her brash persona, numerous cosmetic surgeries, and an irreverent comic style that pokes fun at herself, Hollywood celebrities, and everything in between.
In recent years, Rivers has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. As host of the glorious sartorial bitch-fest that is Fashion Police on showbiz TV channel E! and with the release of the 2010 documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, she has come to the attention of a new generation of fans.
In her new book, I Hate Everyone… Starting With Me, the grande dame of snark expands on her trademark self-deprecating humour. Like any good hater, she hates herself the most.
It all goes back to her childhood, she explains:
‘You know how some people comment on a person’s appearance by saying things like, “She looks like her father”? Well, I actually looked like my father: mustache, man boobs, big thighs, hunched shoulders, sideburns… All I needed was an enlarged prostate and you wouldn’t have been able to tell us apart.’
But Rivers doesn’t just hate herself. She hates everyone and everything, and with her no-holds-barred approach, she outlines the targets of her wrath over the course of the book. These include (but are by no means limited to):
Old people: ‘I hate it when old people are referred to as “feisty.” “Feisty” means Nana got all defensive and angry when you had the nerve to point put that she accidentally shit all over your new car seats.’
Death: ‘I hate it when the obituary doesn’t tell you how the person died. They make you guess. It’s early in the morning and my brain’s not firing on all cylinders yet. Would it kill them to just say, “Murray Weintraub, fifty-eight, mumps”?’
Food: ‘I hate when diners ask, “How is that prepared? Like the waitress showed up an hour early to watch the chef cook. Just once I’d like to hear her say, “Well, once the rats are done crapping on it, the chef kicks it across the floor and then I pick it up and reheat it under my armpits.”’
This book is so jam-packed with one-liners — some chortle-worthy, others groan-worthy, and a few that are laugh-out-loud funny — that at times it feels like reading the transcript of a stand-up monologue.
Some of the material feels a little outdated, such as the section on child stars where Rivers disses Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and someone called Margaret O’ Brien (nope, I hadn’t heard of her either).
This particular strand of misanthropy is one that Rivers would be better to let go of, if not for her the sake of her sanity, then to give her readers cultural references that postdate the Roosevelt administration.
This book probably isn’t best suited to reading from cover to cover. There is no sustained narrative, other than the tenuous “…and here’s some more stuff I hate.”
It’s more a book to dip in and out of at your leisure, perhaps while sipping a vodka martini with the world-weary tones of Peggy Lee on the phonograph, and a coterie of small, yappy dogs at your heels.
Recommended for: Cynics, misanthropes, and the habitually aggrieved.
Other recommended reading: If you enjoy this, you might like to try the memoirs of Nora Ephron.