By Megan Lupo
Walking out to Whitney Houston’s song “I’m Every Woman,” Joy Behar, co-host of “The View,” captivated the audience with her wit at The Rider View on Feb. 22, discussing her early life, her late start to comedy and her take on current events.
Mediated by Nick Barbati, assistant director of campus life, and his former castmate of VH1’s “Finding Prince Charming,” Brandon Kneefel, Behar started the evening off by explaining that she was not always a comedian. Although she said that she was funny in high school and at parties, she did not get her start in show business until she was in her late 30s.
The first part of her life was dedicated to raising a family and beginning her career as a schoolteacher.
After getting married at age 21, which she advised the audience not to do, she had a daughter and received her master’s degree in English education at Stony Brook University in 1966.
“I was a teacher, and I was miserable,” Behar said. “It was a very hard job, and that was before they wanted us to carry guns.”
After teaching college students who were drafted during the Vietnam War, Behar decided to pursue a path in television.
She could not depend on her talents alone. Having a connection in the industry was crucial in beginning this job venture.
She relied on her then-husband’s cousin, who was the lighting director of “Good Morning America” (GMA) to get her a position in the 1980s.
“I had no mentors, no role models. No one was going to show me the ropes in any shape or form. I came from an Italian family, and they were always encouraging,” Behar said. “They said I was great. They gave me everything but an agent.”
Working as a receptionist for the next two years, she was “hostile” and “bitter” with the fact that she had a master’s degree and was answering phones for a living. She was also performing stand-up at night.
After being promoted to a producer role for GMA and then demoted for not being detail-oriented, she went back to being a receptionist.
It was during this time that she experienced a “trifecta of horror.” Behar had a near-death experience from an ectopic pregnancy, got divorced and got fired — all in the span of a couple years.
Behar began to perform comedy full-time throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and opportunities presented themselves.
She was performing seven to eight sets a week for $20 each, which she joked only covered “cab fare.”
At a 1997 unpaid event for actor Milton Berle’s 89th birthday, Behar performed a 10-minute set in hopes of being hired. Behar’s second husband told her that everyone laughed, except Behar’s future “The View” co-host, Barbara Walters.
Behar replied, “I’m not going to work for Barbara Walters. See, you never know.”
A few months later, she received a phone call to ask her to read for “The View,” and soon after, she was booked for the gig.
The rest of her career was dedicated to being on a talk show that provided commentary on global current events. “The View” cycled through numerous guests over the years.
When Barbati and Kneefel asked what the world was like today, Behar said, “It’s f—ed up.”
“One of the things about [President Donald] Trump — I hate his guts, but because of him and how bad he is, he actually is a catalyst for the #MeToo movement, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the kids in Parkland, Florida, who are now taking to the streets,” Behar said. “People are saying, ‘Hey, I better get off my a– and vote and march.’”
As the evening wrapped up, the floor was opened for Behar to answer audience questions. A mixture of community members and students took turns asking Behar about Trump, The View and advice on their furthering their career.
“When I was in college, no one mentioned internships to me, but I see it on television,” Behar said. “There are kids interning, and that’s basically how you get your foot in the door.”
A student jokingly asked, “Do you need an unpaid intern?”
Behar quipped, “No, not from New Jersey.”
After Behar exited the applauding room, Barbati offered input to the crowd.
“My number one takeaway from having someone like Joy Behar come to Rider is to know that what you decide right now for your life, you can change that script at any minute,” Barbati said. “We saw a woman who was 40 when she decided to change everything she knew about her life, and it worked out better than she could ever imagine. So, hopefully, you were inspired in some way to follow your dreams, whether it’s a call of action for politics to help end this madness or even just to love each other a little bit more than all of us do on a daily basis.”
Published in the 2/28/18 edition.