Joan Rivers is a woman whose comfort zone is being outrageous. What woman our age doesn’t find that at least a little bit appealing? Growing up in the middle of the last century, we were socialized to be nice, to be kind, to be supportive, and above all, not to make waves. There’s something compelling about a woman who took none of that to heart, whose basic attitude is “Screw kindness!” and who, instead, gleefully cuts loose with the venom. If venom is what you’re looking for, Rivers’s new book, I Hate Everyone . . . Starting With Me won’t disappoint. It’s as offensive as it is funny.

 I Hate Everyone, in theory a compendium of everything Rivers despises, is really just an excuse to unleash a flood of new one-liners, jokes, and heartfelt (and often heartless) kvetches. It’s nonstop shtick, running the gamut from clever, harmless fun (“I don’t know if the Ivory Coast has any actual ivory in it, but I respect it because it’s the only country named after two deodorant soaps”) through derisive observation (“I hate people who can’t walk two blocks without drinking water. How thirsty can you be? Did you have a block of salt for lunch?”) and on to the truly tasteless (“Every time I see some altacocker sitting at a card table hunching over and wheezing, I want to yell, “Get in the box Mildred! It’s time to get in the box!”)

There’s something shocking on every page. And something that will crack you up. Sometimes, it’s the same thing.  

I love it when a joke offends me but is so undeniably funny that I have to laugh anyway. It stretches my brain. It blows my mind. And it’s a Joan Rivers specialty. I couldn’t be more supportive of nursing in public, yet I cracked a smile at “Breast feeding is a natural body function? So is urinating, but do you want me to take a piss right here on the bus?”

Rivers makes fun of celebrities, the wealthy, and anyone else who is smug and entitled. But she also mocks the handicapped, people with Down syndrome, Anne Frank, the elderly, and, of course, Jews. When she says she hates everyone, she means it. I’d planned to quote the book’s most offensive line, but so much of Joan’s wit is so ludicrously off-putting that I quickly gave up. There was just too much competition.  I’m not easily offended, and I was horrified by many of these jokes.  

But I loved many more. A few of my favorites: 

“I consider cooking to be one of the true wonders of the world, like the great pyramids of Giza or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the unexplained success of Carrot Top.” 

“According to the New York Times, one teaspoon of sperm contains 148 calories, or, if you’re on Weight Watchers, two points.”

 “A guy comes into my dressing room and says, ‘I’d like you to meet my lady.’ I said, ’When were you knighted?’”  

When a famous actor tells her that his wife, a vegan, doesn’t eat anything with eyes, Joan responds: ”You must have a shitty sex life.” 

Rivers is famously driven. But fame and success have failed to make her happy. In the book’s title she claims to hate herself, and, reading it, you won’t doubt that for a moment.  There’s always been a strong element of self-loathing in her comedy. Her fearlessness and honesty may delight and refresh us, but hers is the wit of a bitter woman. She’s been funny for longer than almost anyone else in show business.  She’s outlived most of the folks who have wronged her (which is something Rivers, an avid obituary reader, clearly relishes).  She’s worked tirelessly for everything she’s achieved, and it’s been an uphill battle all the way. You may find this book offensive. I know I did. But I have nothing but admiration for Rivers, if only because she tore up the “nice girl” rules most of us were raised with and wrote her own.  

I Hate Everybody is a quick read. You’ll zip through it in a day. Shudder at the lines that offend you and snicker at the ones that amuse you. You’ll laugh! You’ll wince! And you’ll want to celebrate the fact that Rivers, still going strong at 79, excelling at a job she clearly loves, and continuing to rewrite the rules to suit herself, remains a role model for us all.   

Join the conversation

  • RozWarren August 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Aw thanks, guys. Glad you enjoyed the review. And thanks so much for posting comments.

    Reply
  • Sue August 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Another great Roz book review! I’m still chuckling.

    Reply
  • irene August 3, 2012 at 1:30 am

    I ditto Tobi. I have enjoyed all your book review and the tone of this feels just perfect for this book. The quotes you picked are hilarious!

    Reply
  • Andrew D.E. August 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    She’s always funny when I hear her on the radio. Joan, not Roz. I have yet to hear Roz on the radio so I will hold my opinion til then 🙂

    Reply
  • jgolden08 August 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I’m going to be reading this soon.

    Reply
  • Stephen Nelson August 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    That type of offensiveness seems typical of a lot of comedians, but perhaps she stands out because she is a woman?

    Reply
  • RozWarren August 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks for reading & commenting on my review!

    Reply
  • Tobi Schwartz-Cassell August 2, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I love most everything Roz Warren writes, and this review was no exception. I enjoy Joan Rivers, and would consider reading her book, but Roz’s review was so satisfying, I might not even have to!

    Reply
  • John Millard August 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Sounds like a hoot. This is one I will check out of the library.

    Reply
  • Jody Gillen-Worden August 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Great review! I almost want to read the book. Well, maybe not, but if I did want to it would be because of your review!

    Reply
  • Mark Lowe August 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Wonderful!

    Reply
  • kate August 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Roz’ book reviews either make me want to rush out and read whatever she’s covered, or occasionally make me feel incredibly relieved to be spared even browsing through something I would loathe. In this case I can’t wait for the offensive humor.

    Reply
  • RozWarren August 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

    HA! Good one! (And JR would probably be the first one to laugh — she excells at laughing at herself.)

    Reply
  • hillsmom August 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

    If it’s half as funny as your review, I’ll be delighted. Joan Rivers is the only women I’ve seen who looks as if she has her face tied on in back. (snark) Ok, off to the library…

    Reply