As I called Joy Behar at her office at the ABC Studios in New York, she had just finished taping "The View" and was frantically trying on outfits for The Daytime Emmys, at which she would be a presenter the following day. As soon as we started speaking, I knew she was every bit the way she appears on TV. Warm, boisterous, opinionated, real ... definitely a New Yorker!
She's not guarded and not careful with her language. When Joy answers a question, she answers it for real! No polished editing, no grappling with words. So, this interview is a couple of real straight shooters who speak their minds, having a real conversation about the stuff that gets us going, for better or worse.
Joy Behar: I'm gonna put you on speaker because I'm trying things on as I'm talking to you. We have the Emmys tomorrow. So, talk to me…
PR.com (Allison Kugel): How was your show (The View) this morning? Did it just end?
Joy Behar: It was really a funny show today.
PR.com: You guys had Merv Griffin on?
Joy Behar: We had Merv. It was nice to have an old timer like that around. I liked it.
PR.com: And what were you guys talking about?
Joy Behar: He was talking about Barbara. He interviewed Barbara years ago. We saw a clip of that. The part of the show that was fun today was that we had a scientist on, a woman, who said that there is absolutely no evolutionary need for the clitoris.
PR.com: Right, because the only purpose of it is for sexual pleasure, right?
Joy Behar: Exactly! It's like a recreational organ, pretty much.
PR.com: So if there is a God, which I believe there is, then we were made with a recreational organ.
Joy Behar: To me that sort of shows that there is no God, because I think if there was a God, they would make sure that the clitoris was in the vagina.
PR.com: You know what, I agree.
Joy Behar: I think it's a case to be made against believing in God, but, I'm happy to believe in him anyway. But I don't think that was a smart move.
(We both laugh, You gotta love my job! ;-) )
PR.com: I know. It doesn't make any sense. It's like we have two things going on and they don't really work together.
Joy Behar: Exactly!
PR.com: And in certain parts of the world, women get circumcised.
Joy Behar: You see, they don't want us to have fun in certain parts of the world.
PR.com: Well, wait… they don't want us to have fun in this country!
Joy Behar: In this country they don't want us to have fun. But if you're in Africa, I'm afraid you have no choice.
PR.com: So what do you think about the double standard in this world about men and women's sexuality?
Joy Behar: I think it SUCKS!
(She stops to evaluate her dress for The Emmys with a stylist or an assistant. I couldn't quite tell.)
Joy Behar: We're trying to get something together for The Emmys tomorrow.
PR.com: Are you nominated?
Joy Behar: We're nominated and we're presenting also.
PR.com: Well what designer are you wearing? (Did I just say that?? Somebody spank me. Shame on me! I'm becoming a pod person.)
Joy Behar: I'm wearing Armani. It's a long way from Chico's [Clothing Store] baby!
PR.com: You guys shuffle in [to the studio] at what time?
Joy Behar: I get here at 8:30 AM. Some of us get here at 9AM but I get here at 8:30AM because my hair needs to be blown out. I like to get a jump on it.
PR.com: Are you naturally curly like me?
Joy Behar: Very, very curly.
PR.com: Well you're Italian and I'm Jewish. So we have the same issues.
Joy Behar: Oh, it's the same bullshit! In my neighborhood I was the only one with curly kinky hair, and my fifth grade teacher used to call me "brillo head."
PR.com: Are you serious??
Joy Behar: Yes! What an idiot, I hope he's dead!
PR.com: That's nice to say to a kid.
Joy Behar: Exactly!
PR.com: I've mastered the art of blowing my hair out since I was 9, and I'm now 30. I can blow my hair straight better then any hairdresser.
Joy Behar: You know something, when you get a better job, and they pay you more money (I laugh), then you will just go to the beauty parlor every other day and get your hair blown out. An actress I was reading about said she went to see Katherine Hepburn backstage one time, because [Katherine Hepburn] was her idol. She said to [Katherine], "What was the hardest thing about being an actress?" And [Katherine Hepburn] said, "MY HAIR!"
PR.com: You started off as a teacher…
Joy Behar: Originally I worked at the New York State Employment Service. I was an employment counselor. And then, we followed our husbands to their jobs in those days. We went to Rhode Island, where he was a college professor and I got my teaching license. So I was teaching. Then we moved to Long Island. I got my Master's Degree and I was a High School Teacher.
PR.com: But did you always want to be a comedian?
Joy Behar: Yes.
PR.com: When did you set out to become a comedian?
Joy Behar: I set out to become a comedian after I was fired from a job at Good Morning America.
PR.com: What were you doing there?
Joy Behar: I was a receptionist.
PR.com: Why'd you get canned?
Joy Behar: Cause I was a bad receptionist. I was a very, very bad receptionist.
PR.com: Were you bored?
Joy Behar: Bored and a little bitter, because there I was a Master's Degree, answering people's phones. After I got fired, I threw myself into my career, and it started to work immediately. Six months after I was fired [from Good Morning America], I was a guest on Good Morning America.
PR.com: Get out! As a comedian?
Joy Behar: I had won a comedy award, and they had me on as a guest.
PR.com: Was that the landmark that took you into being an established comedian?
Joy Behar: Well, things started to work for me almost immediately. Then I got a job on Lorne Michaels' show right after Saturday Night Live went off the air temporarily, and he had this other show and he put me on that, and then that got cancelled. Then I got another job with Lifetime Television, my own talk show called "Way Off Broadway" and then that was cancelled…
PR.com: Well, you were building a resume…
Joy Behar: I know. Well the business is like that. Then I worked on the radio. I had a radio talk show on WABC Radio for three years.
PR.com: What did you talk about?
Joy Behar: Politics, women's issues. I was a funny Liberal. Contrary to what they say, that Liberals are not funny. I think that I was a funny Liberal and so is Bill Maher, and so is Al Franken.
PR.com: Bill Maher is hilarious!
Joy Behar: They always say that Liberals are not funny. That's a bunch of crap.
PR.com: And conservatives are funny?
Joy Behar: Exactly, they're so annoying.
PR.com: Did you love having your own forum on the radio, to just sound off on whatever you wanted?
Joy Behar: Yes. The only thing I didn't like is that it was a conservative station, mostly conservatives listened. They would call me up and they were nasty, and I didn't like that.
PR.com: You didn't like sparring with them?
Joy Behar: No, because a lot of them were dumb, and just out there to get me. When I'd get an intelligent caller, which was infrequently, then I liked it. So if I ever did a radio show again, I wouldn't want to talk to the public that much.
PR.com: But could you debate them into the ground and put them in their place?
Joy Behar: I'm really not up for that. I just want to be able to have a good time and tell the truth.
PR.com: What were you doing in 1997, before The View?
Joy Behar: I was doing a lot of Stand Up [Comedy]. I had an HBO Special…
PR.com: How did Barbara Walters find you?
Joy Behar: Barbara found me when I was performing at Milton Berle's 89th birthday party. Do you know who Milton Berle is?
PR.com: YES. Thank you very much.
Joy Behar: I don't know what kids know these days. When I was a kid I used to watch Milton Berle. So he was having an 89th birthday party, Barbara Walters was there and I performed at the party and she… she didn't laugh at the time but then later on she hired me.
PR.com: What do you mean? You saw her with a stone cold face on?
Joy Behar: Yeah, pretty much. I think she was studying me, because she asked Regis Philbin who I was. I knew Regis, and he said, "Oh, don't you know her, she's so funny!" And a few months later, The View went on the air and called me to audition.
PR.com: Then you alternated with Barbara?
Joy Behar: Then I alternated with Barbara, and I got popular and they put me on five days a week.
PR.com: Is the vibe different when Barbara [Walters] is there, versus when it's just the rest of you without her?
Joy Behar: Sometimes it is, but not always.
PR.com: How so?
Joy Behar: Sometimes she's loose and she lets it flow easily and sometimes she's trying to keep the decorum. She's got a job ahead of her with that, because today we had this woman, like I was telling you, who was talking about clitoral orgasms. So, she's trying to be Barbara at the same time as trying to keep it interesting and funny.
PR.com: Have you ever seen Barbara [Walters] blush and sink in her chair?
Joy Behar: Oh yeah. We always embarrass her. (We laugh)
PR.com: Where are you performing your stand up lately?
Joy Behar: I'm going to be at West Hampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Memorial Day Weekend.
PR.com: Where can people find out your performance dates?
Joy Behar: The ABC website. "The View" website. They've been putting it on there.
PR.com: What's your favorite type of guest to interview? Do you prefer actors, politicians, human interest stories?
Joy Behar: I like people who have opinions and something interesting to tell me. Whether it be politics or clothing. As long as they have something substantial to say, and that we can actually engage in a conversation, then I like it. If it's just about plugging their last thing that they did, it doesn't interest me that much.
PR.com: I'm of the same opinion when I interview people.
Joy Behar: Really?
PR.com: Yeah. Because I want to get to know the person and I want the readers to get to know the person… to be honest with you, I tend to enjoy interviewing people who aren't famous…
Joy Behar: Right, I know what you mean…
PR.com: Because they're not as guarded. They don't have canned answers and I try to bring out the human quality in people and I find that they're more open to it.
Joy Behar: Much more. There are some celebrities who are not so guarded, who are fun to interview. And some of them, you know, are protecting something.
PR.com: How do you handle an interview that's a dead interview, where you're not getting the meat that you're looking for?
Joy Behar: You mean the deer in the headlights? The good thing about [The View] is that there are five people or four people sitting there. We cover for each other. I'm sort of a trouble shooter on the show, too. I'll come in with something out of the blue. If something is getting dead, we just think of things to do. But if you're alone with them it's much more difficult.
PR.com: Are there any upcoming guests or segments that you're excited about?
Joy Behar: We're having something on where the guy was 450lbs. and he lost 300lbs.
PR.com: How did he do it?
Joy Behar: He said with diet and exercise.
PR.com: I have a good metabolism, thank god!
Joy Behar: See, you have curly hair, but a good metabolism.
PR.com: Do you ever find that a debate with another co-host gets heated during host chat, and you have to work it out after the show?
Joy Behar: That doesn't really happen. We get it out on television. Whatever happens there, happens. We do have heated arguments, but I think that by and large, they're friendly arguments. Once in awhile it gets a little snotty. But that's the way it is with girlfriends, right?
Joy Behar: Sometimes you go over the edge, and you're mad at the person, but what are you gonna do? It's over. You always have to say to yourself, "It's just television."
PR.com: You're very topical in what you discuss at the top of the show. Does everyone have their own agenda, where for any given topic you know what each person's opinion will be?
Joy Behar: That would be a question for you to answer…
PR.com: Yeah, I guess I do.
Joy Behar: You feel it's predictable…
PR.com: Sort of. Just like you get to know someone in person, you get to know someone on television. You get to know what they're defensive about, where they're coming from…
Joy Behar: Well, what do you know about me?
PR.com: You're a liberal thinker. You like the irony in a situation. You like to come in and throw an ironic spin on it.
Joy Behar: So my technique is predictable but what I'm going to say is not.
PR.com: Right. I mean, I know that you're more Liberal.
Joy Behar: Yes. I wouldn't want that to be hidden anyway. But, if the Liberals were in power now, I'd be taking them on. Depends on who's in power, and I don't agree with this administration on hardly anything, but if Teddy Kennedy was the President, I'd be on his case, believe me.
PR.com: What do you think of Ted Kennedy?
Joy Behar: I think that he's a very good Senator for the Liberals and for Massachusetts. I think that he is a tragic figure.
PR.com: He's a tragic figure, but he is one of my favorite politicians, just because he's such an advocate of the Democratic Party…
Joy Behar: That's right. And he also is a good women's advocate. He's a good limo Liberal. Let's put it that way.
PR.com: I'm not interested in somebody's personal life and personal tragedies, unless they're a part of my life and I love them and care about them personally. With someone who is serving the public, I can separate that. I loved Bill Clinton as a President.
Joy Behar: Well God bless you, that you can do that.
PR.com: I loved what he did for education and for healthcare.
Joy Behar: He was great.
PR.com: Whatever problems he was having in his marriage, I really don't give a shit.
Joy Behar: It was a witch hunt after the poor guy.
PR.com: George W. Bush is surrounded by accusations of cocaine use, alcoholism, he has a DUI on his record…
Joy Behar: Yeah, but he found Jesus…
PR.com: Yeah, I know.
Joy Behar: He came back with, "I'm a new man. I love Jesus," Even though he's incompetent.
PR.com: I think much of the Republican Party is a Christian fundamentalist group disguised as a political party.
Joy Behar: Well your generation is going have to change that, because we did what we could. We had the Sixties. And now it's up to you kids. It's your future. I really feel for you. I have a daughter your age. I hope that the next election, people are not so blindsided, but, they did rig the election. I don't believe in either one of those elections.
PR.com: Neither do I. I was the person who was glued to CSPAN, who got out at 8AM to vote, who donated money to the Democratic Party. Now, I don't watch anything, I don't read anything, I don't pay attention to it at all, because I became so disheartened.
Joy Behar: But you have to go back to it. Even if you get angry about it, that's good. Be angry. It's a fun thing to do. We need your anger.
PR.com: You think?
Joy Behar: Yeah.
PR.com: I guess somebody has to change things, right? That's why I like what I do. And you're a comedian and a talk show host, and it gives you a great forum to vent as well.
Joy Behar: That was my motivation in terms of why I started in the first place. I used my humor, because I think that people will listen to you if you're funny. And then you can say what you have to say. I think I try to do it a lot on "The View," of course it's not HBO, and I don't have total free reign. But I do it as much as I can.
PR.com: But in your stand up performance, you have free reign.
Joy Behar: Yes, and that's the best part, because you don't have anybody producing you. You are the producer, the director, the star. The only thing you are not is the lighting director and the sound man.
PR.com: You were raised in a household where you were encouraged to speak your mind and then you get out into the world and you find that there are so many different roadblocks up that slam in your face.
Joy Behar: What shocked me was that the world didn't embrace me the way my family did. They didn't say, "Oh, look who's here! Joy's here!" like [my family] did. It took me a few years to overcome that. Sometimes if you have an abusive childhood, it's easier, because you're used to the abuse. But, I was not. I was only used to total worship.
PR.com: You're fortunate.
Joy Behar: I was fortunate as a child and I had a good mother. They say, if you have a good mother, it's like winning the lottery. Now I'm really having fun, because when you finally get yourself together in the world, all of the things that you got when you were a child come back to you in this wonderful way.
PR.com: I'm only thirty now, but the twenties seemed to be a time of building, an uphill battle of scraping and clawing your way to where you're gonna get. Not just financially and career-wise, but emotionally. You know, you have no idea who you are…
Joy Behar: I think the thirties are a very good decade to really be honest with yourself so that your forties will be wonderful. The twenties are the worst. Not as bad as the teen years, but they're not good for a woman. There's too much pressure on us to be thin, to be pretty, to meet the right guy, to get the right job, to have babies… they really don't know when to stop! And then as you get older you say, "Screw this! I'm just gonna do what I do!" The twenties are very, very demanding. I think women should take note of the fact that they may not get through their twenties in one piece.
PR.com: I didn't get through my twenties in one piece. I mean I'm here…
Joy Behar: But the thirties are better.
PR.com: I felt a sense of relief when I turned thirty. I felt like, "Thank god!" I felt like I graduated. You know, I look at pictures of myself, because I used to model in my early twenties and I was in Playboy in my early twenties. And I look at that stuff and I'm like, "ok, I'll never be that physically perfect again," but the trade off isn't worth it.
Joy Behar: Judge Judy's book says, "Beauty fades…dumb is forever."
PR.com: Funny! Good luck tomorrow at The Emmys.
Joy Behar: Oh thanks. We're not gonna win. We never win, because there's always one of us to hate.
PR.com: It's just a trophy. Trophies don't mean anything. At another time, if we ever speak again, I'll tell you my theory on trophies and how meaningless they are.
Joy Behar: OK!
PR.com: Ok, that's a deal?"
Joy Behar: It's a deal.