After Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, there have been a lot of tributes on television, radio, blogs, and podcasts. One podcast that I am subscribed to – The Fame Fatale (formerly The Answer B!tch) – is hosted by Leslie Gornstein, who is a member of our ’80s generation. On her latest podcast, Leslie reminded me (and her other listeners) about a big role that Joan Rivers played in our early lives – the narrator of The Adventures of Letterman.
I know that this took place in the ’70s, but many of us from the ’80s had some or most of our early childhood in the ’70s. There was a block of shows on PBS that was Must-See-TV for us youngsters. It started with the grandaddy of them all – Sesame Street, then Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and then came my favorite of them all, The Electric Company.
For those of you who don’t remember The Electric Company, it was basically a sketch show, which was funny and educational. It featured skits with some great actors such as Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Bill Cosby, as well as some animated shorts in between.
One of my favorite animated shorts was The Adventures of Letterman. I had not seen any episodes of The Electric Company since it had originally aired. I do remember a lot of the characters, but I had not known that Joan Rivers was the narrator of The Adventures of Letterman! In each episode, somebody would be going about their business, such as eating a Pear. Then the dastardly Spell Binder would come around and screw with the poor sap by changing a letter in the featured word, turning it into something else. In this example, just as the lady was going to take a bite out of her Pear, Spell Binder changed the “P” to a “B”, making it a Bear! The Pear would then turn into a Bear! What a crazy bastard!! What is the lady to do? Well, have no fear!
Faster than a rolling ‘O’
Stronger than silent ‘E’
Able to leap capital ‘T’ in a single bound!
It’s a word, it’s a plan…it’s Letterman!
Letterman would show up, and change a letter, making it a less threatening word. Spell Binder is foiled again!
Here are a few of the shorts. Check them out. I think they are still entertaining. It is awesome hearing a young Joan Rivers. Oh, and if Letterman’s voice sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. Gene Wilder provided the voice of our hero. Zero Mostel also provided the voice of Spell Binder. There are a lot of these on YouTube, so enjoy!
And thanks to Leslie for bringing some of my childhood back, and reintroducing us to some great Joan Rivers material! If you enjoy celebrity news and gossip, then you need to listen to her podcast, The Fame Fatale.
Can we talk? There have been way too many celebrity deaths lately. We lost another comedy legend yesterday – Joan Rivers. Personally, I think she was hysterical and edgy. One thing I admired about her was that if she made a controversial comment or joke, she never back-peddled or apologized, unlike most celebrities these days. She stood by her statements. She could be really mean towards celebrities, but she also made fun of herself just as much. Here are some examples:
“I said Justin Bieber looked like a little lesbian – and I stand by it: he’s the daughter Cher wishes she’d had.”
“Most babies are not actually attractive … (They’re) kind of like Renee Zellweger pushed up against a glass window.”
“Why should I cook for my husband? So he can tell a hooker I make a delicious cake?”
“I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I’d look like without plastic surgery.”
“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”
Joan Rivers was a fixture on late night television – especially on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson years.
In 1986, the upstart Fox network gave Rivers her own talk show – The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. The show aired from 11:00-12:00 at night, putting her in competition with The Tonight Show. The fact that Carson heard the news from Fox, instead of Rivers herself, cost them their friendship. They never spoke again, and she was banned from The Tonight Show until Jimmy Fallon took over this year. As you can see from this appearance, she was still funnier and edgier than most comedians out there today.
And here is Joan Rivers interviewing one of my favorite wrestlers of all time – Rowdy Roddy Piper – on her own talk show The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. This was leading up to Wrestlemania III.
Unfortunately, her show did not last too long. The network wanted to fire producer Edgar Rosenberg, who also happened to be Joan Rivers’ husband. Rivers challenged the network, and they ended up firing both of them. Three months later Rosenberg committed suicide.
One thing many of us ’80s kids remember Joan Rivers from was her role of Dot Matrix in the classic Mel Brooks movie, Spaceballs. Here is a classic clip from the movie:
And one more notable ’80s performance was her role as Eileen in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Here is a scene of Joan Rivers trying to cheer up Miss Piggy after she had a fight with Kermit.
Sadly, at age 81, Joan Rivers was still at the top of her game, and we no longer have her. But she has left us a legacy of some incredible laughs.