That Time Joan Rivers Got Melissa in More Trouble: Read an Excerpt From 'Book of Joan'

by 4:00 PM PDT, May 06, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Less than a year after the death of Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa Rivers is healing the best way she knows how: Through laughter.

In her new memoir The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, Melissa celebrates the life of Joan through one hilarious story after another.

"In our family we always believed that laughter was the best medicine," Melissa told ET. "Not only are there less side effects than Prozac but it's a lot cheaper than therapy. I wanted to write a book that would make my mother laugh. I hope it makes you laugh, too."

Read one of Melissa's favorite teenage memories in the excerpt below.

WATCH: Melissa Rivers Describes Joan’s Last Moments: 'I Held Her' 

Photo: Random House

ONE OF THE most basic rules of successful parenting is that when dealing with children, both parents have to be on the same page. One of the most basic rules of teenagedom is to divide and conquer. As I’ve men­tioned before, my parents felt I was a study in recessive genetics. However, the one place I clearly did not fall into the recessive department was in my ability to assess a sit­uation in order to achieve my desired goal. I normally had a high batting average when it came to this kind of manipulation, but the following incident is an example of a full swing and miss. It was such a swing and miss that you’d have thought I played for the Mets.

When I was sixteen I got a speeding ticket while driv­ing. (Shocker! A teenager speeding! How unusual!) Mind you, I wasn't doing a hundred miles per hour in a school zone, or whizzing through a hospital parking lotknock­ing patients out of wheelchairs, or crashing through a farmers' market, flattening vegetarians who were shop­ping for fresh, crisp lettuce. I was on my way home from school and was simply testing the cornering ability of my car.

Since I was already in trouble with my mother for something or other—this was the normal state of affairs during my teenage years; I spent more time in trouble with her than not, and had actually found a certain com­fort zone in the relentless groundings, icy stares, and stony silences—I immediately went to my father and told him I’d gotten the ticket. I knew that my father, having a bit of a lead foot himself, would be significantly more understanding than Driving Miss Crazy. I begged him not to tell my mother—and I mean begged, like a hos­tage on Criminal Minds fighting to be unchained from the radiator in the basement before the maniac sets off the bomb's timer. Being in trouble with the police and the DMV was one thing, but having my name on my moth­er's shit list—not in pencil, in ink—was a whole 'nother kind of trouble.

My father, the dear, sweet, easily-manipulated-by-his-daughter's-tears man that he was, swore he wouldn't say anything and promised he would go to juvenile traffic court with me. And most important, he would never tell my mother. All was good in Melissaland.

But the day before my scheduled court appearance, my father found out that he couldn’t go with me at the scheduled time, as he had a pressing business matter to attend to. So he wrote a letter to the court stipulating that his assistant, Dorothy, was his legal proxy and that she had the authority to appear with me in court on his behalf. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. The next morning, during my mother’s normal daily snooping sweep of the house, she found the note on my father's desk. She was apoplectic. Not only was she furi­ous at me for getting the speeding ticket, but she was livid with my father for not only not telling her about it, but also knowingly and willingly engaging in a cover-up. For a man whose reading habits rarely strayed from history, she was shocked that my father had learned nothing from Watergate. She tore the note up and announced that she would be going to court with me.


Can I just say that the drive from our house to the courthouse was more awkward and uncomfortable than a homophobic congressman trying to explain to his wife why he was caught loitering in a men's room?

When we walked into court, all the other scofflaws and their families obviously recognized my mother, but she had a look on her face like Mel Gibson looking at his family tree and realizing that one of his relatives was Jew­ish. Not only did no one approach her for an autograph or photo, but they gave us a Queen Mary–size berth.

When my case came up on the docket and my name was called, my mother stopped being Joan Rivers or Joan Rosenberg and turned into Hangin' Judge Joan. The judge read the complaint against me and said, "How do you plead?" Before I could say, "Guilty," "Not guilty," or "Guilty with explanation," my mother cut me off and barked, "She’s one hundred percent guilty and needs to go to traffic school!" The judge concurred, and that was that.

On our silent ride home, she managed to run a Stop sign, make an illegal U-turn, and clip a curb while mak­ing a left. I recognized the irony of this but thought better of saying anything. I also thought she would have been a great judge at the Salem Witch Trials.

Around six o'clock that evening the ice between my mother and me began to thaw. Shockingly, this coincided with my father's car coming up the driveway. Thanks, Dad! I owe you one.

Reprinted from THE BOOK OF JOAN: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation Copyright © 2015 by Melissa Rivers. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.