Melissa Rivers gave a talk this week at the 92nd street Y, moderated by Hoda Kotb, about her late mom, Joan Rivers. Melissa is promoting her new memoir, The Book of Joan. You can see the video of her talk on Today.com. She spoke a lot about her grief over losing her mom, and about how much Joan meant to her, the fans and all her many friends. It was sad and hard to hear at times, but also bittersweet and funny. It was a surprisingly interesting talk, I came away thinking that I’d watch a show with Melissa.
Everyone is focusing on the quote in the title, that Melissa said that Kathy Griffin “sh*t all over” her mother’s legacy by kind of trashing Fashion Police when she left. In context those quotes don’t sound as damning, because Melissa admitted that was her personal response to Kathy’s statement and that she knew it wasn’t intentional on Kathy’s part. She also had some funny things to say about how Joan would have shut down the controversy over Zendaya’s dreadlocks. I think that Melissa is mischaracterizing the controversy over Giuliana Rancic’s statement as an argument between Kelly Osbourne and Giuliana when it was actually much bigger than that. Zendaya was the one who called out Giuliana’s statement as racist and then Kelly chimed in from what I remember. Of course Kelly claimed to have warned Giuliana during taping that she shouldn’t tell that joke. So maybe Melissa is right. Here’s some of what Melissa told Hoda:
Hoda: You’re watching [your mom's show Fashion Police] kind of crumble. Did you want to get in there and say something?
I did everything I could do. It’s a strange sort of dynamic. Yes I am the executive producer and one of the creators of the show, but it is owned by the network. So I can make all the suggestions that I want… the bottom line is, whoever signs your check is your boss. It was a very difficult time. I had a lot of conversations with everybody involved… it really shows that we were a family, it was cast and crew and staff. We went back too fast. Just like a family when the matriarch dies, the sisters started fighting and someone tried to marry in, not a great match, live and learn.
It was extremely frustrating because I had to keep my eye on the franchise and the legacy of it and not get involved in the personal.
Your role is someone [who gets people together]. Is that still a possibility?
It’s a possibility. I just know that I don’t want to go through the unhappiness that I went through for those few months again… I felt like Fashion Police was this little jewel and it was the last piece I had of my mother and I working together.
I felt like all these people were so out of control, including the one who made the allegations of racism – they took the last thing I had and smashed it… So I think I had to take a little bit of a break, we just started creative meetings again now, to reformat and come back.
What do you think Joan’s thinking?
It never would have happened if she was alive… I think there might be a little bit of a twinkle in her eye saying ‘yeah, couldn’t do it without me, could ya?’ After that, I’d think she’d be a little bit frustrated. If something like that would have happened and my mother had been ne alive, she would have gone ‘are you serious, oh please, all of this over a wig?’ Literally it was a wig, let’s all relax. It never would have happened. She would have called Giuliana and yelled at Giuliana, she would have called Kelly and yelled at Kelly and said ‘stop it,’ and she would have listened to them both cry and complain about each other and she’d be like ‘hey is everyone over it, now let’s all go to work.’
Were you glad [Kathy Griffin] was a part of [Fashion Police] or not?
I’m just going to say it wasn’t a match on a lot of levels. My biggest complaint was the feeling that she kind of sh*t all over my mother’s legacy in her statement on leaving. I know that that was not an intentional reading of it, but that’s how I felt, but I know that wasn’t how it was intended. Everybody was so heightened and everybody was so crazy, but that was my takeaway by calling the comedy and the style of it old fashioned. It’s like, I understand what you’re doing, you’re trying to save yourself, but don’t crap all over my mother to do it. And that’s how I felt and that was very personal, but as a professional that was her choice, that’s what she did, no harm no foul, it didn’t work, moving on.
From what I can find, Kathy Griffin never directly called Fashion Police old fashioned. In her statement leaving Fashion Police she said that her style of comedy didn’t fit with the direction of show and in later interviews she called Fashion Police formulaic and said that she was hoping it would be more contextual.
You can tell that Melissa really dislikes Kelly Osbourne because she wouldn’t even call her by her name at first, she called her “the one who made the allegations of racism.” Kelly is such a pain in the ass and she picks fights with everyone. I get why Melissa felt like Kathy Griffin was putting down her mom’s style of comedy in her statement – Melissa was personally invested in the show and she had just lost her mother in a very sudden way. The thing is, Joan probably wouldn’t have cared and she would have had a quick, obnoxious response for Kathy. Joan could dish it out and she could take it too. That lady did not have thin skin.