If The View were a horror movie—and sometimes it’s not that far off—Joy Behar would be the final girl. The comic, who looks better than any 78-year-old has any right to, is the only original panelist left on the daytime talk show, which is currently in its 24th season.
When I reach Behar by phone, there’s audible commotion in the background. After telling the background noisemakers, “Keep it down!” she returns to our call. “It’s just one of those days,” she says resignedly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Behar’s been taping episodes of The View from her New York home. I’m being purposely vague regarding its location since she’s expressly told me not to write where she lives, lest her legion of online haters be tipped off.
“I don’t like people to know where I live because there are plenty of people who hate my guts. They don’t agree with me,” she offers. “When I get some kind of a troll online, sometimes I look at their profile, and it always says they love Trump and they love Jesus. I’m like, listen, I love Jesus too! But these people who disagree with you now can’t just disagree with you. They need to hate you and want to kill you too. So there you have it.”
In addition to starring on The View, Behar—a stand-up by trade—is a gifted comedy playwright. Her latest series of short plays, A Totally Disrespectful Evening of Plays by Joy Behar, will air on Oct. 25 as part of a benefit to aid the Hamptons venue Guild Hall, as well as The Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreation Center and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. Behar, her longtime pal Susie Essman, Lorraine Bracco, Dylan McDermott, Rachel Dratch, and others will be performing her plays.
I spoke to Behar about her ongoing TV feud with conservative brat Meghan McCain, the time she was forced to apologize to Mike Pence, and why she’d rather “turn into a lesbian” than be anywhere near Ted Cruz.
I’m from New York City like yourself, and the thing that really seems to be lost in the election discussion is just how vile Trump has been toward women. We’re now up to 23 women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault. It’s a staggering figure.
I know. I would have had them show up at the debate if I were in Biden’s camp. But they don’t play dirty like that on that side. They just don’t. Today, I was watching a speech by Sheldon Whitehouse [the Democratic senator from Rhode Island] and he said that they can’t get away with this because we’ll come back at you, and how two can play at this game.
It does seem like the Dems need to adopt that mentality, because the GOP’s really become the party of shamelessness and of winning at all costs.
You can’t negotiate with shamelessness—and with liars. It’s impossible. Trump tonight [at the town hall], he’s just going to lie, talk through the moderators, talk through the town hall people.
It did seem a bit irresponsible of NBC to essentially give in to Trump’s demands in hosting a town hall alongside Biden’s. You can at least have it at a different time.
Well, NBC is the network that created the lie—the big image that he’s a great businessman—with The Apprentice, and then its creator Mark Burnett still hasn’t released all the [Apprentice] tapes, and there’s all sorts of terrible stuff on those tapes. It’s the network that protects him, besides Fox. And they have no business protecting him. They’re a legitimate network, unlike Fox. But they want the ratings.
How do you feel about the election?
Well, I’m a little worried. Between the ballot boxes being removed and put in places they don’t belong, the fake ballot boxes, the long lines to vote, the fact that you have to travel hundreds of miles in Texas to drop your ballot off? Please. Plus you have this enthusiastic crowd on the Trump side. I think there’s a little bit less enthusiasm on the left. Now, even though it looks like Biden is winning, I don’t trust that. Last time around I trusted it, and I was on the air conducting a show on Lifetime on election night, and they were afraid to tell me that [Trump] was winning, so they let me continue to do the job in the dark, and then I got a text from a friend at CNN telling me he won, and I was like, “Holy shit.” So, I’m preparing for the worst. I’m freaking out about this. I’m in a rage about this. I’m seeing the country go down the toilet.
And you know, I’ve been around for a number of years. I’ve been through Vietnam, my father and uncles were all in World War II—I’ve seen this country go through shit, and it could happen again. By some kind of luck, and the brilliance of Woodward and Bernstein, they caught Nixon. This time, he has so many enablers that I can’t even count them anymore. And if they take the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Executive branch, you can say goodbye to this country. Just say goodbye to this country right now. It will be the death knell of the country.
I was watching The View today and saw you float the theory that you think Trump could have lied about contracting COVID, and that it could all be a ruse of sorts for PR.
Well, I don’t know. I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all. I don’t buy that stuff. But in this particular case, because he’s such a fucking liar, and because he basically owned those doctors with all the non-disclosures, I don’t really know what went on in that hospital. ‘Dr. Tom Cruise’ was giving his own spiel over there, but who knows what went on. So he’s sick, has the virus, and can’t do the debate now because Biden will only be in the other room? I think he didn’t want to do it because he did so badly in the first one. And then, all of a sudden, he’s recovered? Really? Chris Christie didn’t recover so easily—and he’s obese, just like Donald Trump.
You mentioned Amy Coney Barrett, and I’ve been following along with the Senate hearings as well. You said this was about the GOP’s “white male panic.” She does seem like the perfect weapon for them.
She’s in that People of Praise group, and I believe their philosophy is that you’re supposed to be subservient to your man. So that fits right in. I don’t understand people’s obsession with Roe v. Wade, because abortions are less frequent under Democratic administrations. So in other words, if you vote for a Democrat you’re voting for the pro-life candidate. That’s a fact. And yet, they can’t seem to grasp that. Maybe these religious people think that if they don’t go against abortion they’re committing a sin and are going to hell in some way, even though the rational thinking is that the other side is doing the job right. And you know she’s going to overthrow that. You know she’s going to do it.
The GOP wants to ban abortion while also cutting the social safety net, so what’s the endgame? Is it to punish women for having sex outside of marriage and to keep them subservient to their husbands?
It’s to control women. They don’t like that we’re not under their control. And the Republican Party has been trying to starve the beast ever since FDR got in, so they just want people to die or go away or something, because they’re not going to help anybody. They’re total hypocrites. They don’t mind running the deficit up when it’s one of them in office, and they don’t mind using fetal cells from an abortion in Regeneron, which Trump took as his COVID antibody treatment. It’s OK when it’s for them. I can’t stand them.
You’ve got this Guild Hall Benefit coming up to benefit the Hamptons venue, as well as a number of charities. And you and others will be performing A Totally Disrespectful Evening of Short Plays by Joy Behar.
It’s two sides to my personality. One is this raging liberal who’s furious with what’s going on right now, and the other is a comedian—you know, I’ve been a comedian all my life—and a writer, and I’m writing some funny plays now. One is about a kid who goes up against the nuns in her Catholic school by blaspheming, and another one is about an Italian woman in Brooklyn who wants to settle a score with a woman she knows but the woman is dead, so she calls in a psychic to settle it. And there’s a monologue that I do about a woman who commits a petty crime and justifies it with the current situation we find ourselves in.
You know, I’m part Jewish and for the longest time I thought you were Jewish. In fact, I was pretty shocked to learn that you weren’t Jewish.
I know. When I was doing stand-up, I used to have an act where I’d say, “Nobody believes me and everybody thinks I’m Jewish. A few years ago, I get a call: Happy Hanukkah. I said, ‘Mom, I’m not Jewish!’” Everybody thinks I’m Jewish! I’ve had Jewish husbands and all my boyfriends have been Jewish, so what can I tell you? [Laughs]
Do you miss stand-up?
Oh, I do not miss it. It was the most stressful part of my career, doing stand-up. I don’t miss it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m done. You’re up there naked and everybody else is dressed, and you walk out there and they’re waiting for you to be fabulously funny. It’s hard to do, and it wore me out after a while. And I have a job, so I don’t really need to do it for the money. And then I got into this writing thing, and I’d rather do this. I’m tired of being in front of the camera and I want to be behind the camera.
I was watching Bill Burr the other night on Saturday Night Live, and I thought he was really funny. He’s like an old school kind of comic. I saw he said at the end, “That’s my time,” and I thought, he thinks he’s still in the club, this guy!
That monologue got a pretty split reaction.
Oh, please. People do not understand irony in comedy anymore. Political correctness is the death knell of comedy. And by the way, I’m not politically correct, so you should put this in there: Nobody who’s politically correct should watch this. They can pay the money, because it goes to two food banks and the theater, so it’s a nice thing to do. But I feel like I got out of [stand-up] just in time, because I couldn’t handle it.
I’ve been watching The View for quite some time, and it has had some pretty historical moments over the years, from Obama’s first daytime TV interview to—
—When Donald Trump said he wanted to date his own daughter. That was on The View. It was a surreal moment. I said to him, “What are you, Woody Allen?” He thought that was funny apparently. And another moment was when I walked off the set with Bill O’Reilly. Fuck him. Fuck him. It was because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric. This fucking guy. And I was right about him. He’s an asshole—and look where he is?
The View was pretty ahead of the curve when it comes to calling out Trump. I mean, Rosie O’Donnell’s rant against Trump seemed to give him a decades-long complex.
That’s right! His reaction to her was so over-the-top. It’s like he got knifed and then he threw a nuclear bomb on her. We saw the real guy there. And the thing that got him wasn’t because she was making fun of hair, because we’ve all done that, it was saying he was broke and didn’t have any money, because that’s his Achilles heel.
And you were in the middle of a rather telling moment on your HLN show, where you interviewed Melania Trump and she went full birther against Obama.
Oh yeah. And that’s one of the only interviews she ever gave. She was selling her tacky jewelry—that’s why she was on my show, to push her jewelry. And I caught her in the middle to admit that she’s a birther, and it’s been haunting her ever since. You saw the real girl there. Mmhmm. You know, now that you mention it, I have been in the middle of some historical moments. [Laughs]
I’m curious how real the Joy Behar vs. Meghan McCain thing is on The View.
OK, look, here’s the thing: she’s your age. I could be her grandmother probably—or certainly her mother. She’s a kid. We get into arguments, and it works out. I got into these fights with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and I got into a fight last week with Marsha Blackburn. Whoever comes on and gives me shit, I’ll give it right back. That’s how we work.
I’ve read that the Elisabeth Hasselbeck stuff mostly stayed on-camera but the Meghan McCain fighting has traveled behind the scenes as well.
A little bit. A little bit… but that was when we were in the studio, and now we’re of course not in the studio anymore. There were moments in the hair and makeup room maybe, but it wasn’t anything catastrophic. You get mad at her and she gets mad at you, and then you write her something funny or she writes something at you, and she shows me pictures of her baby now. That baby is adorable.
In Ladies Who Punch, the book on The View, there’s a section about a fight that happened between you and Meghan McCain, where you say to her, “I’ve tolerated a lot of shit on this show but I’m at my wits’ end with this entitled bitch.”
Did I? Maybe I did. She called me a “bitch” one time—it was in People magazine. So you know, it’s mutual.
I remember when they made you apologize to Mike Pence on The View after you said it was weird that he thought he could hear Jesus speaking to him, calling it a “mental illness.” Do you regret having to apologize to him for that?
You know why? Because the advertisers were pulling out, that’s why. The pressure kept building and building. I even spoke to Mike Pence on the phone and said, “Look—I have no intention of insulting your religion. I’m the same religion—I was raised a Catholic.” It was an off-the-cuff remark about people who think they hear voices. But I don’t mind apologizing. You know what, honey? It’s for the greater good sometimes when you apologize. If you don’t do that, you’re out of a job. I wouldn’t be here now trashing Donald Trump—and Mike Pence—if I didn’t apologize.
Ted Cruz had a weird tweet at you the other day. You accused the Republican senators of flirting with Amy Coney Barrett and Cruz sent you this weird tweet that said, “Happy to send you flowers, Joy.”
He thinks he’s funny or something. Like what am I jealous that they’re flirting with her? Is that his point? Oh, please. Please! I’d rather turn into a lesbian overnight than go near Ted Cruz.
I know your contract is up in 2022. Will that be it for you on The View?
I think that’s enough for me, 2022. That will be it. Well, maybe. I’m getting older and I want to travel a little bit. I want to go back to Italy, but I’m missing my chances here with this goddamn virus! I want to do some traveling, do some writing. If Trump wins, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here