Joan Rivers – Honorary Librarian

Stand-up Librarian Meredith Myers shares influences from the late, great Joan Rivers that aren't so obvious.

“Can we talk?”

I only wish we had the chance, Joan.

Joan Rivers was known as many things. Relentless comedian. First woman to ever host a late night talk show. Reality star. Fashion critic. Lover of plastic surgery. QVC pitchwoman. Librarian?

As I graduated from USF in 2010 with a Masters in Library and Information Science, a comedian who decided to become a librarian, I watched Joan’s new documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and was reminded of the dreams I was giving up to pursue my love for literacy and what I hoped would be a more comfortable and normal life than the one I had for years as a struggling comedian in New York. People always compared me to Kathy Griffin and since it seemed only one redheaded female comic was allowed in the industry at a time, I thought my big mouth could be better utilized as a librarian, sharing my love of reading and how important libraries were.

I made the choice to stop being funny and be smart.

But it was there on that documentary that I was reminded that Joan and I had more in common than a love of the stage and making people laugh. She too was an aspiring librarian! She had a card catalogue in her New York apartment where she organized all of her jokes. Thirty years of jokes stored in a gray card catalogue meticulously arranged by subject.

I was so envious. First of her incredible talent, then for her bravery of never giving a shit what people thought, and now her card catalogue!

As I continued to watch the film, it was inspiring how hard this woman worked, and she was turning 75! I knew then that the real key to Joan’s success wasn’t that she was just funny it was because she was smart about being funny. She approached comedy like a librarian. She was prepared, organized, and willing to say yes to every opportunity that came her way. Shows at tiny comedy clubs, auditions for reality TV shows, infomercials, red carpet interviews, writing books, pitching scarves — you name it, she did it, and all with a big plastic smile on her face. She may have bought it, but it was absolutely genuine.

The woman loved her work.

I would take her approach to pursuing work in the library field. I created a blog promoting libraries, became an advocate, a volunteer, an intern, a library page, a library assistant, and finally, the Stand-Up Librarian. Joan taught me to work hard but she also showed me that I could be whatever I wanted to be and not give a crap what people said about it. Whether it was her going to a plastic surgeon or me wearing a book skirt and a raven on my hat. She taught me to be brave.

I would eventually get my own card catalogue after coming home to St. Petersburg from years of struggling in Los Angeles, still an unemployed librarian despite hundreds of applications. But thanks to Joan and her incredible work ethic, I had library comedy shows to prepare for, literary purses to sew for Stand-Up Librarian Designs, and a book to write, which I just finished last week.

That’s what I will most remember about Joan Rivers. She was not afraid to work hard. To say yes to opportunity. And most importantly, show that a woman could be smart and funny.

RIP Joan Rivers. Comedian and Honorary Librarian.

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