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Joy Shtick: Or What Is the Existential Vacuum and Does It Come with Attachments

Joy Shtick: Or What Is the Existential Vacuum and Does It Come with Attachments

by Joy Behar


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Now in paperback! The View's raciest co-host shares her views on life and womanhood in a side-splitting scrapbook of reflection, rage, and raw honesty

"One of the funniest women in America" (New York Post), irrepressible comedienne Joy Behar never minces words. Whether she's skewering popular culture as the co-host of ABC's The View, or offering her own skewed outlook on life in one of her sold-out standup routines, she's always candid about the way she feels. And this book is no exception. A no-holds-barred scrapbook of Joy's perspective on life, it includes rants on every topic—from aging to men, to family, to death—and features Q&As with Joy's take on every dilemma. Flip through her private, hilarious collection of family photos. Enter her weird imagination as she dreams up a feminist feud between Gloria Steinem and Camille Paglia. And discover why she's certain to remain one of America's most charming and disarming personalities.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786885459
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 05/24/2000
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Joy Behar is an actor, writer, comedian, and current cohost of the Emmy Award-winning talk show The View. This is her second book for children. She lives in New York City.

Gene Barretta lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Trapped at
Exit 60

Twenty-five years ago I lived way out on Long Island, off Exit 60 on the infamous Long Island Expressway, in what could best be described as a below-working-class neighborhood. My immediate neighbors were living in a shack. An interesting circumstance, since Exit 70, en route to the Hamptons, held the promise of bumping into Ali MacGraw or Alan Alda.

    People did not smile much in my neighborhood. At first I thought they were unhappy, and then I realized that it was probably because everyone seemed to have teeth missing. Apparently, dentistry stopped at Exit 59.

    I might as well have been living on a cattle ranch in Montana. I was totally isolated from civilization, but without the nice scenery. I had very few friends in the area. None of my neighbors spoke to me. But how could they? They never saw me. I rarely left the house. I spent most of my time at home rereading In Cold Blood. That Truman Capote really had a special knack for making lonely shut-ins feel secure.

    I was married at the time and my daughter was coming up on a year old. My husband was earning his doctorate in Sociology at the State University at Stony Brook, which explained why we were living at the edge of the earth. He and his fellow graduate students dreamed of writing treatises on such fascinating topics as "the latent function of social interaction and conflictual reality of subcultures as defined by the liberating potential of subjective interpretation and Berna Skrypnek." While he slaved away over a hottypewriter, obsessed with topics that would only be read by other sociologists who were busily writing their own scintillating essays, I was desperately trying to figure out how to wean my daughter off my breast, which she was beginning to chomp on like she was some kind of wild marsupial.

    Immediately after my daughter was born, I threw myself into a creative, domestic frenzy. Apparently, giving birth had triggered in me a long dormant urge to express myself artistically. I took a watercolor class; I began to write short stories; but it was puppetry that was my real poison. Once I got started I couldn't stop myself from making papier-mâché puppets that bore a striking resemblance to my relatives back in Brooklyn. The puppet I made of my Aunt Rose was not only anatomically correct, but it even sported a mink stole. I might have been prescient, because I didn't realize that some form of occupational therapy, even if it involved making family archetypes, would later be needed to rouse me out of my postpartum depression.

    When I wasn't fashioning puppets, I was working on a master's degree in English Education and writing papers about Flannery O'Connor. In the meantime, all my plants were blooming as if they had been blessed with some potent fertilizer from another planet. It was as if Martha Stewart, Mrs. Greenthumbs, and Shari Lewis were channeling through me.

    Life was good. At least for the moment. But one day all that changed. Without warning, and for no apparent physical reason, I awoke one morning and could not get out of bed. It felt as if someone had stapled me to my mattress. Try as I might, I just couldn't get up.

    Suddenly, all of my projects seemed irrelevant and stupid. The puppets in particular seemed like a total waste of time. Who would ever care about these stupid puppets? Even my relatives, whom they were fashioned after, would be bored by them, or so I figured.

    If it weren't for my daughter screaming for my boob, I would have been happy to lie there indefinitely. This lethargy went on for about six months. But as I lay there, staring at the ceiling, my husband slowly—very slowly—began to notice. Apparently his treatise on the distribution of paper clips in corporate America was finally completed and he had time to check on me.

    After a while, when it seemed as if I might be stapled to that mattress indefinitely, I finally realized that I couldn't spend the rest of my life like this and so I roused myself enough to call a shrink and try to make an appointment.

    The only other experience I had had with therapy was right after I was married. I was searching for a creative outlet to enrich my life and this shrink suggested that I have a baby. Amazingly, despite this earlier dubious brush with psychotherapy, I still decided to go back a second time. Maybe it was because Exit 60 was such a lonely place that I was even willing to pay for what I figured would be good conversation.

    This therapist came highly recommended, and was actually described to me as "a shot of vitamin B-12," which, under the circumstances, didn't sound too bad, especially since there would be no sharp instruments involved. Unfortunately, the therapist said she was "very busy right now," and so I would have to wait a couple of months to see her. This was unsatisfactory, as I was already creating an indentation in the mattress that was making it almost impossible to extricate myself, even if I had wanted to. So I informed her that I had to see her immediately because I was trapped "under the bell jar." Those of you who have had periods of depression of some sort or another will certainly recall that the patron saint of dreariness, Sylvia Plath, had written a book called The Bell Jar a short time before she put her head into her oven while her kids were sleeping. (Why wake them? It was hard enough getting them to sleep.)

    Fortunately, this shrink, who was evidently familiar with the book, grasped the gravity of my situation and so she cleared out her busy calendar and made an appointment with me immediately. This taught me an important lesson: when choosing a therapist, find one who is more familiar with poetry than with the latest Spice Girls hit.

    The shrink was a woman of about fifty, with a limp left over from childhood polio. To this day, I maintain that she was my favorite therapist because not only did she spend more than the allotted time with me, but she once offered me a piece of cheese when I had low blood sugar, making it impossible to sufficiently concentrate on my neurosis. Most therapists will let you lie there like a dog before they'll offer you any food or even some candy. I'm sure they have some sort of explanation for this, like "Feeding patients will just trigger a stronger transferential environment." Yeah, right. Advice to therapists who might be reading this: it wouldn't kill you to have a bowl of M&Ms next to the couch.

    For several months, I met with my new shrink once a week and we discussed my childhood experiences. A typical session might go something like this:

    Shrink: Tell me about your childhood.

    Joy: I never got a lot of sleep.

    Shrink: Why? Were you having nightmares?

    Joy: No. I was the TV set. My relatives kept me awake to entertain them. How many times can you sing "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and still make it fresh?

    Shrink: Is that why you spend so much time in bed now?

    Joy: How the hell do I know?

    Shrink: Why are you getting hostile? What's troubling you?

    Joy: I hate Long Island.

    Shrink: Why? It's so lovely here. Have you visited the new outlet center?

    Joy: I shoplifted ... I mean, I shopped, there. I know it well.

    Shrink: A Freudian slip.

    Joy: No, actually just a cute top.

    Shrink: You mean to tell me if you weren't out here on Long Island that your problems would be solved?

    Joy: I need to see human beings.

    Shrink: Why don't you get out of bed and go somewhere.

    Joy: Where?

    Shrink: That's up to you. Where would you like to go?

    Joy: Back to the tenement.

    Shrink: Why?

    Joy: I like the smell of garbage at night. Which reminds me. The cheese you gave me smells like my father's socks.

    Shrink: It seems that we've struck a psychosexual chord here.

    Joy: We have?

    Shrink: I believe there is a strong parallel between your inability to extricate yourself from your bed and the smell of your father's socks. Have you had any interesting dreams lately?

    Joy: Last night I dreamed that I was eighty years old and I was reading from the Bible at a senior citizens' center. Just as I was getting to the best part, my brassiere went flying into somebody's soup.

    Shrink: What do you mean by the best part?

    Joy: When they talk about turning that guy's wife into a pillar of salt.

    Shrink: Lot's wife. His name is Lot. What does that remind you of?

    Joy: I don't know.

    Shrink: Think hard.

    Joy: Well. Maybe it's about my life. That I'm like a woman frozen in salt. And that I feel like I'll be an old lady before I ever do what I want to do. Is that what you mean?

    Shrink: Not really. Brassiere? Soup? Salt? What do they all have in common?

    Joy: They all come in cups?

    Shrink: Now you got it.

    Eventually, after weeks of conversations like this, she said to me, "You don't need a shrink. You need a drama school." And so she recommended I go to one in Huntington, Long Island. Practical guidance from a shrink? Unheard of. Would Freud have suggested obedience school to the Wolfman? Another helpful note for you therapists out there: remember, the world does not end at your couch, and fifty minutes is not an hour.

    It was at this drama school that I met an acting teacher named Zena, who was a product of the old studio days in Hollywood. Her best friends were Jose Ferrer ("I will never forgive Joe Ferrer for playing Richard the third like a cripple," she often bemoaned) and Susan Hayward, who had just died of a brain tumor. Apparently Miss Hayward had the misfortune of once being cast in a movie that was shooting in the middle of a desert where they were testing A-bombs. Everyone on that film, including John Wayne who thought he "beat the big C," has died. And I don't think the film did too well, either.

    Zena was the kind of teacher who believed that telling is teaching. We rarely got a chance to act because she was all too happy to do it for us. She would say that we were going to learn "insanity" and then she would do "insanity." Her technique was strictly "snake pit." She'd say, in a normal voice, "I really love roses," and then she'd change her voice or put her hands up as if she were carrying a tray of canapes, and say it again, "I really love roses," her face distorted, teeth bared, and looking more like a hemorrhoid sufferer than a schizophrenic.

    Even though I never got a chance to act much, I really liked that class. That's because Zena always said that I was talented. I'm not sure how she knew that, but it was nice to hear anyway. Frankly, that's really all it takes for me to like something. I need to be good at it, or at least told that I'm good at it. It's as simple as that. For that reason, Zena was a great acting teacher.

    Despite Zena's teaching methods, I finally got a chance to do a scene in class. I didn't know much about acting technique, so I bought an LP of Uta Hagen as Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and I copied the way she did it. "That was brilliant," Zena announced to my fellow drama students. "Notice the way Joy owned the stage. She's an actress!" Suddenly, Zena was a genius in my eyes.

    You'd think this positive reinforcement would have encouraged me to join the Actors Studio, or at least to call Uta Hagen and thank her, wouldn't you? But, even though Zena loved my work and the shrink continued to feed me emotionally not to mention with cheese, I still couldn't see my way out of Exit 60 and into a new life.

    But things were looking up. At least I was functioning on a more normal plane. For one thing, I was vertical. And for another, the kid was off the boob and my husband was finishing up his doctoral thesis.

    One day I woke up in a cold sweat and, without thinking, I boldly announced to my husband that we were going to sell the house and move back to civilization. He was stunned by this sudden outburst (after all, he was used to me just lying there) but he agreed without much fuss. (Maybe the fact that I looked like Linda Blair in The Exorcist at that moment helped convince him.) At any rate, he knew that he could discuss "the collective behavior and anticipatory socialization of the Lemon Swamp" within the confines of the five boroughs just as easily as he could on the periphery of humanity known as the suburbs. Anyway, we both knew that we didn't want our daughter to grow up to live in a trailer park and marry a guy covered with tattoos.

    In my heart, I always knew I was going to leave Exit 60, go to Uta Hagen's class, visit my real relatives instead of making facsimiles, continue therapy, pick up a copy of Jacqueline Susann's latest trash novel, and find a good dentist. Turns out, that was a very good plan for me.

    You'll have to read my ex-husband's latest treatise to find out how it worked for him.

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