October 19, 2005


Joan Rivers Gets Into Shouting Match Over Race (Scott Martelle, October 19, 2005, LA Times)

Rivers, who begins a tour of England on Friday, was a guest on BBC Radio 4's "Midweek" program with Darcus Howe, a Trinidad-born writer and black activist, and two other guests, including author Jackie Collins. Howe is the subject of a new movie, "Son of Mine," about his relationship with his son, who spent half his youth in Trinidad with his white mother. [...]

After host Libby Purves remarked that Rivers was espousing "an American approach," Howe condemned the U.S. as "the most savagely racial places in the world."

After a back-and-forth over the nature of hatred, and a discussion of the film about Howe, the discussion turned angry when Howe tweaked Rivers, referring to "Caribbean children, since black offends Joan."

Rivers exploded.

"How dare you say that! You know nothing about me," Rivers said.

Howe revised his comment to say, "the use of the term black offends you."

"Where the hell are you coming from? You have got such a chip on your shoulder," Rivers said. "Don't you dare call me a racist! I want an apology from you."

As Purves tried to mollify Rivers, saying she didn't think Howe was making a personal comment about the comedian, Rivers became increasingly angry.

"This is a problem in your stupid head," Rivers told Howe, and then accused him of abandoning his responsibilities as a father. "Where were you when he was growing up?"

Purves again tried to smooth the waters.

"I have great sympathy with both sides," Purves said, "but I am starting to feel like Oprah."

"Both sides? Then you're a racist," Rivers said, stunning the host into momentary silence as Rivers continued, calling Howe a "son of a bitch."

After Howe said he did not think Rivers was a racist, Rivers said: "Thank you. Please continue about your stupid film."

The exchange can be heard on the program's website, www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/midweek.shtml

Makes you proud to be an American.

Joan Rivers unleashes torrent of abuse in racism row on Radio 4 (Hugh Davies, 20/10/2005, Daily Telegraph)

[The photographer Andrea Jones] recalled last night that Howe had arrived at the studio late. "It was all terribly relaxed. Jackie Collins was extremely pleasant. None of us had seen Darcus, and had no idea what to expect. I just assumed he was this kindly, wise person. When the fireworks occurred, Libby sort of looked at me, as if I was the calm person. I did think at one point that it might end in fisticuffs.

"Joan was shaking with rage. She was genuinely offended. I sympathised with her. I don't think it was appropriate for him to jump on her."

She said that Howe swiftly left the studio as the show ended. "He just went. I didn't even see him go. He didn't stay around for a chit-chat.

"It was quite an upsetting situation but Joan didn't stop laughing from the moment she walked into the Green Room afterwards. She had her entourage with her. They obviously loved her - and were quite happy to laugh it off."

Howe, 56, the son of an Anglican priest, is one of Britain's leading black commentators, noted for his Channel 4 programme The Devil's Advocate, a studio debate that featured his polemical style, as well as a weekly column in The New Statesman.

Rivers later appeared as a guest on ITV's Paul O'Grady show, and, again, seemed happy to laugh off the encounter. She said that if Howe had shown some humour, things might have been a bit different.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2005 10:37 PM

If Hillary Clinton really wants to be President, all she has to do is get on a similar show with Al Sharpton or Calypso Louie, and say exactly the same things.

Posted by: ratbert at October 19, 2005 11:21 PM

As Mojo Nixon once sang, Elvis is in Joan Rivers (but he's tryin' to get out).

Posted by: ted welter at October 19, 2005 11:39 PM

Howe is a deadbeat dad who passes himself off as a social commentator.

Good for Rivers.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 20, 2005 12:57 PM