Can we talk about Joan Rivers?
Recently, I re-watched the documentary film Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fnojZw54ls
This movie shows Joan Rivers is smart. Determined. Hard-working. Outspoken. She’s an inspiration, and this movie is packed with nuggets of good advice and sage wisdom for all of us in advertising.
“I prepare like a crazy lady.”
She writes and writes and writes and writes and writes some more. She’s been writing for over 40 years, and she’s not stopping.
“He who limps is still walking.”
Joan Rivers’ career has been a sine wave. She’s been up (Permanent Guest Host of The Tonight Show). And she’s been down (she competed on Celebrity Family Feud against Ice-T and Coco). But even when she’s down, she keeps on going. I’m sure many creatives can identify with the ups and downs (As a Creative Director told me, “Some days you’re in the White House. Some days you’re in the shit house. That’s advertising.”). It’s inspiring to see someone who has been through decades of ups and downs still remain optimistic and hardworking. She says, “I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”
“Yeah, but what am I doing Monday?”
To illustrate Joan River’s approach to work, her business manager tells a story about Richard Pryor. This manager spent a good deal of time developing long-term goals and mapping out a years-long career trajectory. After he finished presenting this detailed, elaborate plan, Richard Pryor turns to him and asks: “Yeah, this is great, but what am I doing on Monday?” Focus on the here and now – what a great way to approach working and building a career in any field, especially creative lines of work.
“I will do anything. I will wear diapers if I have to.”
Joan Rivers doesn’t turn down work. In the movie, she tells her agent that she’ll do anything to book a commercial, even wear diapers. She talks about playing the Bronx at 4:30 in the afternoon. She agrees to a celebrity roast on Comedy Central. She’s not happy about these things, but she does them. She keeps working until her career is once again on the upswing.
She actively creates the upturn by constantly finding new ways to get her name, and brand, in front of the public. She’s recorded comedy albums, written and produced plays, hosted talk shows, invented the pre-awards show red carpet fashion critique (“Who are you wearing?” Who cared before Joan.), created a jewelry and fashion line that’s sold on QVC, done voice-over work, been a part of television shows like “How’d You Get So Rich?” and is featured in a new reality show with her daughter – just to name a few of the many things she’s done. When one opportunity ends, she invents a new one. She creates her own success. And so can we.
“I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”
Love her. Hate her. It doesn’t matter. She’s inspiring. And she is a great example for anyone in a field where success is dependent on your wits, creativity and ability to pick yourself up from losses and keep on going.