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“Muppets Take Manhattan” has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. The most memorable scene captures Miss Piggy’s first day working at the beauty counter at luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. After a troublesome lunch break, Piggy asks her co-worker, played by Joan Rivers, “Do you think I’m pretty?” Rivers then uses her signature over-the-top, offbeat sense of humor to show Piggy how a little rouge, lipstick, and defined eyebrows—“But pigs don’t have eyebrows!”—can lift your spirits. Rivers gets completely carried away and the duo is in complete hysterics throughout the makeover, even when they’re inevitably fired. I rewound that scene on my VCR so many times that I think I damaged the tape. Rivers might have been heavy-handed with her application, but when I think about it, she was probably partly responsible for making me move to New York City and pursue a career in beauty.
People today may know Joan Rivers as someone who made snarky comments about red carpet attire, but she was a pioneer in the world of comedy. In 1965, she was a recurring guest on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. As the only woman in a sea of male comics, she constantly pushed the boundaries of what women were allowed to say and do, rolling up her sleeves and making crass jokes with the best of them in a way I still idolize. Rivers used her satirical humor as a tool for truly brilliant and poignant commentary on pop culture. She was fearless in her constant pursuit of the truth, calling people out for their shenanigans and even making herself the butt of her own jokes, putting her own flaws on blast before others could. P.C. or not, Rivers always owned whatever she said; she wanted everyone to lighten up. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing her several times, and it was clear to me that her desire to make people laugh and ability to laugh at herself were her best assets. As Joan Rivers, a comedienne who worked up until her last days, is laid to rest at 81 years old, let’s all take a moment to remember that life should be celebrated through laughter.