Joan Rivers leaves creative legacy for Columbia students

By Managing Editor

In February of the Spring 2014 semester, I came to the Chronicle office on a Saturday morning to sit down with my good friend Tyler Eagle, now editor-in-chief of The Chronicle, as he prepared to do a phone interview with Joan Rivers. 

After a few moments spent calming his nerves, Tyler dialed the  phone number that would connect him to one of his idols. As per usual, Rivers was a riot throughout the interview, making him laugh out loud several times as they spoke about her visit to Columbia as part of the college’s Conversations in the Arts series. 

Despite her fame, Rivers took the time to visit Columbia and do what she could to inspire the college’s students and offer her valuable insight to those studying in the recently established Comedy Studies program. 

For the last five decades, Rivers has been a trailblazer for women by reinventing the comedy world and becoming a fashion expert—a combination that made her the most comical and honest fashion critic of her time. 

The loudmouthed comedian and fashionista died Sept. 4, leaving many fans at a loss for words. Though Rivers alienated some celebrities in her time with her use of harsh words and amusing insults, the outpouring over her death immediately dominated social media and TV. 

What stands out most to me is not the mourning of fellow comedians and celebrities who knew Rivers but the reactions I noticed among my peers. What moved me most about Rivers’ passing was the realization that she had influenced young people across a wide spectrum of careers. 

Sure, I have plenty of friends studying comedy or fashion who are heartbroken at the loss of Rivers’ signature shocking humor, but I also noticed friends who study graphic design or business who were devastated at the news. 

The most important thing young people should take away from Rivers’ life is her triumphant journey. She started her career as a female comedian in an age when men dominated stand-up comedy. Men were typically the ones selling out nightclubs and signing TV contracts, but Rivers continuously fought for her place in the comedy world until she became impossible to ignore. 

The roughly 9,000 creative students at Columbia should note the many obstacles that Rivers had to overcome throughout her professional life and consider the obstacles that they may have to overcome themselves on their own paths to success. 

Most people do not enter creative—and typically low-paying—professions unless they are pursuing their ultimate passions, and while Rivers eventually did rake in the cash, she loved her career so much that she never stopped performing comedy until the end. 

That is something we should all strive to do. We should all be so fully immersed in our creative work that it becomes a part of who we are day in and day out so that it no longer feels like work but becomes what we want our daily lives to be.