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Joy Behar, one of the original hosts of ‘The View,’ begins her new show, ‘Joy Behar: Say Anything!’
by Blase DiStefano • Photo courtesy Current TV
It’s appropriate that Joy Behar is one of the co-hosts of the ABC mid-morning talk show The View: she’s got a view on any and everything, and she’s not afraid to give it to you straight…but also gay. In fact, she’s about as gay-friendly as…well, let’s put it this way: on her nightly Joy Behar Show (which ran on HLN from September 2009 to December 2011), there were so many gay guests and so many gay topics, we’re thinking she’s more gay than Ellen. We’re talking about, just about every night there was something—or lots of something—gay. Surely, that won’t change with her new show, Joy Behar: Say Anything!, which premieres September 4 on Current TV. • I talked to Behar in July, and she was funny, smart, and open. Read on to see why she was such a joy to interview. (Yes, I had to say it and italicize it.)
Blase DiStefano: Hi, Joy.
Joy Behar: Hi, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
What are you up to right now?
Well, I’m just contemplating jumping in my pool in a little while.
So the weather is good there?
The weather is so hot. Where are you?
Oy! The weather in Dallas is the pits. I don’t know about Houston—I think Houston, too—but I was in Dallas one time in June, and I thought I was going to kill myself.
Yes, we’re always on the verge of suicide here.
[Laughs] Oh, so muggy! But everything’s air-conditioning, so that’s the better thing, I guess.
I just walk to the car and turn on the A/C, then walk into work, in the A/C…
Yeah, you never really get [outside] air. God forbid there’s a blackout, though. You’re all going to die. [Both laugh]
I’m going to start with your acceptance speech at the GLAAD Awards a couple of years ago, which was great.
Oh, thank you. It was from my heart. I meant it.
I know, and you could tell. You, along with Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin, are very vocal in your support of gay rights. When did you form your views on the gay community?
I think it was very early on. I had some gay friends in college. I didn’t grow up with any gay people that I knew of. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and believe me, there were plenty who were in the closet, I realize now. When I look back, I think, “Oh my God! The guy who used to buy his wife’s brassieres—I bet he was gay!” [Both laugh]
There was another guy, a kid who used to wear a mink coat all the time, who used to hang out and be with his mother all the time—I mean, until he was like 40! [Both laugh] At one point I said to my mother, “Is that person gay?” And she said, “No, he’s delicate. He’s just delicate.” And I said, “Okay.” [Both laugh]
Those were the two that were obvious. There were probably others. And the teachers—we had a teacher named Mr. Bruno. I bet he was gay. We just liked him, and he was a lot of fun. But now that I think about it, you know… But people didn’t know. We never thought of it.
Do you know if you had any gay relatives?
I really don’t think I did. I do now, through maybe marriage and stuff. But I don’t think I did. I would know by now, wouldn’t I?
I guess you would. Do you have family that’s alive?
Well, yes, my Aunt Julie is alive. My mother and father are gone, but I still have a lot of cousins, and like that. But they seem to be straight, all of them.
Yeah, well, you need to contact them and ask them if they are.
[Laughs] Well, if they are, they should have told me. It would really be stupid to keep it from me. Especially since I could help them to come out, if they wanted to.
You’ve probably helped a number of gay people come out with your show.
Well, my feeling is that parents, when they suspect it a little bit, they should ask their kids. You know, don’t wait for the kid to ask you or to tell you. Ask them! They’re waiting to be asked, hoping that you’ll be okay with it. But the parents don’t want to ask. They’re from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” generation, from way back.
I was praying that my parents would say something, but they never did.
Because they’re scared to ask. They’re afraid of the answer. [Both laugh]
Right! And back then, that wasn’t the answer they really wanted to hear.
No, they didn’t want to hear that. They wanted to hear, “Oh, I want to have children, get married…” Well, now they can get that answer from young people. “I want to have children and get married.” Isn’t it nice that some states have that now? Not enough, but it’s coming along.
I was going to ask you if you remember the first gay person you ever met, but I guess that might be the guy with the mink coat?
Well, the guy who was married who bought his wife’s brassieres.
Oh, yeah! [Both laugh] He had a lot of the markings of a lot of sophisticated gay guys. He loved the opera, he loved to go shopping for his wife and buy her clothing and underwear like that. He really was into it, and she was madly in love with him. I interviewed her as an older lady, after he was dead, and she was like, “They broke the mold when they made my husband.” Believe me, he was as gay as they come. You know what I mean? This guy was gay, I don’t care what anybody says. It didn’t matter, though. He was happily married to her. I don’t know what he was doing on the side, but that’s his business.
I am so glad your show is coming back on.
So am I. It’s a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to it.
For us, it’s fun and informative. But also, I compile quotes for a monthly column for the magazine called Queer Quotes. And I got a slew of quotes from your show when you were on. I actually subtitled one of my columns, “The Behar Edition.”
Oh, really! Why don’t you send that to me.
I’d be happy to. Should I send it through…
Representative: You can send it through me, Blase. I’ll send you an address.
Send it to [my representative], because I’d like to see it. It’s not that I don’t want to give you my address—I trust you—but let him do that part.
I totally understand. I wouldn’t expect you to do that.
Oh, I would give it to you. I’m like that—I would give it. I can tell, even on the phone, if someone’s a nut.
I understand what you mean. I interviewed Valerie Harper, and when she came here to Houston to do her show, a friend of mine and I went to see her. We went backstage after the show, and she said, “What are y’all doing?” And we said, “We’re just going home.” And she said, “You want to go to dinner?” [Behar laughs] And the representative was freaking out! [She laughs more] He was standing there going, “What?!” And she said, “Oh, I can tell.”
[Both laugh] Yeah, she’s a great girl, anyway. I love Valerie. She’s very nice.
So she actually went out with the two of us in my friend’s car. The things that could have happened! [Both laugh] But she knew.
Yeah, women know these things.
So, do you have a title for your show yet?
I was thinking, for the Democrats, you could title it, Oh Boy! Joy! [She laughs] And for the Republicans, it could be Joy Annoys.
[Laughs] Well, it depends on your reading. It could be [dryly] Oh Boy. Joy—same title for the Republicans, only a different interpretation. People are trying to think of a title for the show, because it may end up to be the boring The Joy Behar Show unless we can come up with something better.
That title says it all.
Pretty much, right? I’m not going to drive myself crazy with this one.
It could be just Joy.
Yeah. Like Cher or Madonna. Joy. I don’t think I’m quite as famous as that.
This interview is scheduled for our September issue. Your birthday is the month afterward, right?
Yes, October 7.
And did I add this up right? Are you going to be 70?
Yes, I am.
I don’t believe that. [She laughs] And I’m not just being nice.
Well, I look good, I must admit. I look good because I’m Italian and I’ve got good skin.
You know, about ten years ago, I refused to admit my age, but everybody writes it now. They put my number in there, which just drives me bananas. I don’t mind that I am that age, but to see the number really gives me vertigo. But I’m in the same category as Barbra Streisand. The late Nora Ephron just died—she was 71. Bette Midler is almost 70 now, too—she’s 67 or something like that. Everybody’s old now. We’re all old. [Laughs]
They’re great people, so you’re in good company.
I’m in good company, yes. Well, I started late, also, so that’s the other thing. I had a whole life before I was even a comedian. So I don’t feel that old in the business. I only feel old in my real life.
About what age did you actually start doing stand-up?
I really did throw myself into it at around 35. But I didn’t start making a living at it until I was about 41 or 42. That’s when I sort of started making money in the clubs as a comedian. Before that, no, nothing. I was a teacher.
So you started out teaching…
I was a high school English teacher, and I was married to a professor, and we had that whole professorial life: we lived in Rhode Island, we lived on Long Island—you know, we did that. And I got a job at Good Morning America working in production, got fired from that, and threw myself into comedy. That’s basically what happened to me. And here I am.
So, has a woman ever put the make on you?
Yes, of course. Certainly. [But] I don’t tend towards that. I did play doctor when I was a kid with a girlfriend, but that was it. [Both laugh] I seem to be attracted to men. I love women, but it’s not quite from the waist down. You either have it or you don’t. Although I know a lot of women now who have been married for years, and all of a sudden they decide that they love women. It seems to be happening all over the place. It’s not a decision. I got into a lot of trouble for misspeaking the other day. It’s not a choice. I know that.
Let’s just say, for some reason, you had to switch. Who would you switch sides for?
Oh, I always say Catherine Deneuve. She’s the one.
I might switch for her!
That’s it. She’s the one, and now we’re the same age, so we could be like two old lesbians going into the sunset together, but it still would be great. [Both laugh]
And you both look great, too.
She looks a lot better than I ever looked, believe me. God, she was the most gorgeous thing. I mean, I never really could stand to read the subtitles when she was on camera.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Rick Perry.
So tell me what you think of Rick Perry.
Oh my God. [Both laugh] Well, didn’t he jump the shark with that [hunting camp his family owned]? What kind of behavior is that for an American who’s running for president?
And that’s our governor! It’s really scary.
That was pretty scary. But what’s not scary is that he didn’t even get close to the nomination. But you know what? The really scary ones are not the Rick Perrys, because their stupidity is written all over them. It’s the sneaky ones like Romney that we have to watch out for. This is a guy who is a chameleon. He’ll be a puppet, just like W was. And they’ll tell him what to do, and he’ll do it. Because he has no core of self, this guy.
Probably the only good thing that would come of his winning is that the comedians would have something to go with.
That’s true. I lost kind of a little bit of interest in doing stand-up when George Bush was out of office. It was so much fun. I used to get big laughs, just quoting the guy for 15 minutes. Now, Obama’s not as funny, so it’s hard to make fun of him.
You can read Behar’s GLAAD acceptance speech at glaad.org. Tune in to Joy Behar: Say Anything! on September 4 at 5 p.m. (central time) on Current TV (current.com).