Adele vs Joan Rivers: Not Funny

Adele at the 2012 Grammys (AP/Matt Sayles)

Adele at the 2012 Grammys (AP/Matt Sayles)

There’s nothing the world of showbusiness loves more than a war of words. Everyone gets the chance to take sides, throw their own barbs into the bile soup and generally act like the appreciation for one entertainer over another amounts to anything at all.

And seeing as Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn have finally buried the hatchet on their little contretemps in the ’90s, we should at least feel a smidge of gratitude towards Joan Rivers and her increasingly tiresome attacks on Adele. Only a smidge, mind, we don’t want Joan’s ego to become engorged.

Have you been following this thing? It’s ridiculous. Joan, whose act often consists of finding unsayable things to say about sensitive issues, is in the middle of a big media windbag hurricane because she said some things about Adele’s weight and rather than ignore her, or issue a smackdown of her own about plastic surgery, Adele responded by demanding an apology, as if she was the victim of a crime.

So it’s all a bit of a nothing, except that once you read Joan’s jokes, you realise they’re… bad. They’re not good jokes.

The real crime isn’t that the outrageous comic Joan Rivers is poking fun at a successful singer, that’s basically her job. No, the crime here is that the outrageous comic Joan Rivers can’t think of anything funnier to say about Adele than this, from The David Letterman Show:

“She sang live and said, ‘My throat, my throat, I don’t know if I can swallow.’ And I said, ‘Oh, you can swallow.”

That’s the peak moment of Joan’s wit on the topic, a resounding six-out-of-ten gag. The rest is just pointing at Adele, then saying the word chicken:

“What is her song, ‘Rolling in the Deep’? She should add fried chicken.”

Or this:

“I am saying she is fat, but let’s face reality, she is fat. Chicken is good because you can sell it, Adele. You will always have a market.”

Yep, because what overweight people need is someone to point it out. We’re so wrapped up in being politically correct these days that we don’t even notice the pounds piling on a famous person unless it is pointed out by another famous person. A truth teller. A sage. And of course, what all overweight people love to do is eat fatty foods. They must do otherwise they wouldn’t be fat. And they are fat, that’s reality. And it’s hilarious.

And when Adele requested her apology, which was a mistake, given the circumstances, but could at least provide Joan with a fresh angle on the whole fat/chicken gag, she came back with this:

“She wanted an apology – so I took an ad out on her ass. I said, ‘You are not fat’, and then I had room left for a lot of other ads.”

Because she’s got a big ass, you see. Fat people have those. They get them from eating all that chicken.

“It was funny. She’s a chubby lady who’s very, very rich. She should just calm down – or lose weight.”

And you know how to lose weight? Eat less chicken!

The net result of all of this idiocy is that gossip websites all have the same headline: “Joan Rivers: Adele is fat.” That’s a punchline, written by a professional comedian.

So really the issue is not that the outrageous comic Joan Rivers has said a contentious thing, that’s exactly what she should be doing, the problem is that she’s being paid appearance fees and whipping up interest in her live shows without bothering to be entertaining.

That really is outrageous.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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