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This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
1. Don’t make friends with your dogs! The sons of bitches will literally die ahead of you and cause you grief!
2. I always like a charity with people who don’t speak English because I get them to do all kinds of things around my house.
3. I’ve never done Jay Leno, but I’m sort of glad about that. He wouldn’t know what to do with someone funny.
4. I said Justin Bieber looked like a little lesbian — and I stand by it: He’s the daughter Cher wishes she’d had.
5. Look at Gwyneth Paltrow being named the most beautiful this year. She got Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder to vote.
6. The people voting for the Oscars are so old. I haven’t seen one Academy Award voter with a tampon in her purse.
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Read on for more wisdom from the comedy legend.
→ I’ve learned: Don’t make friends with your dogs! The sons of bitches will literally die ahead of you and cause you grief!
→ I’ve learned to appreciate landmark moments like the Emmy I won in 1990, one of the best moments of my career. Unfortunately, when I went to pawn it, it turned out not to be gold.
→ I’ve learned the importance of being charitable (God’s Love We Deliver, Guide Dogs for the Blind, American Society of Suicide Prevention). Of course, I only give net to charity. You can deduct a lot of stuff such as clothes — and lipo should be under the clothes. You have to look nice if people will give you money for charities. I always like a charity with people who don’t speak English because I get them to do all kinds of things around my house.
→ I’ve learned from doing my own show with Fox that people are not your partners if they’re signing the checks. Whoever signs your paycheck is the boss — no matter what they tell you. They tell you that Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller own 50 percent, and I own 50 percent. Well, forget it — you get zero if they decide you get zero.
STORY: Camille Paglia Pens Love Letter to Joan Rivers, ‘Iconic Feminist Role Model’
→ I’ve learned from my dealings with Johnny Carson that no matter what kind of friendship you think you have with people you’re working with, when the chips are down, it’s all about business. He loved me, loved me, loved me, and I left his show very honorably to do my own show. Then the minute I was competition for him, he cut me off at the knees. He said I never called him, and it followed me for 10 years. I would go on a set, and people would say, “We heard you were terrible to work with.” It was NBC who did that to me. I’ve never done Jay Leno, but I’m sort of glad about that. He wouldn’t know what to do with someone funny.
→ I’ve learned: When you get older, who cares? I don’t mince words, I don’t hold back. What are you gonna do to me? Fire me? It’s been done. Threaten to commit suicide? Done. Take away my show? Done! Not invite to me to the Vanity Fair party? I’ve never been invited! If I ever saw the invitation, I’d use it as toilet paper. My gardener Jose is invited — he asks me to bring him his sombrero to clean it for him.
→ I’ve learned you don’t always listen to your agents and managers. Sometimes they know nothing. ABC once offered me a daytime talk show a long time ago. My agent and manager said, “Joan, you’re a nighttime personality.” So I turned it down. Then ABC went to Chicago and found this girl with blue eye shadow named Oprah Winfrey. Now she’s got $500 million, and I’m part of the crew. I do the catering for Obama.
→ I’ve learned to have absolutely no regrets about any jokes I’ve ever done. I got a lot of flack for a joke I made about Heidi Klum and the Nazis [“The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens”], but I never apologized for it. I said Justin Bieber looked like a little lesbian — and I stand by it: He’s the daughter Cher wishes she’d had. You can tune me out, you can click me off, it’s OK. I am not going to bow to political correctness. But you do have to learn, if you want to be a satirist, you can’t be part of the party. Meaning, you can’t go horseback riding with Jackie O in Central Park if you’re going to make a joke about her that night.
→ I’ve learned only to make jokes about public figures. I went pretty far with Elizabeth Taylor, and I told my very good friend Roddy McDowall, who was her best friend: “But I only make jokes about people who make $40 million a year!” Then again, Cher got upset when I took her out of the act!
→ I’ve learned not to have regrets about plastic surgery. I have made America prettier! People should be thanking me! The plastic surgery assocation should be giving me freebies!
→ I’ve learned not to take those “World’s Most Beautiful” or “Sexiest Alive” titles too seriously. People can be named the best anything depending on who’s voting. Sometimes it’s three people. Look at Gwyneth Paltrow being named the most beautiful this year. She got Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder to vote. The people voting for the Oscars are so old: I always say, I haven’t seen one Academy Award voter with a tampon in her purse.
→ I’ve learned not to slow down. I’m so lucky to have my life. In a previous life, I must have been the Jewish Mother Teresa: Mama Selma. I didn’t cure lepers, but it’s not so bad to lose a finger. It’s not so terrible if you have another finger to put the ring on.
→ I’ve learned what’s funny verbally ain’t so funny on e-mail: They don’t hear your intonations. Melissa broke up with somebody over that. She tried to tell him: “That was a joke!” But he just didn’t get it. Mick Jagger said, “F– ’em if they don’t get the joke.” And I love him. That comes with age: Knowing it’s their problem, not mine.
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