The View has gone through many incarnations, but the greatest constant on the show, thankfully, has been comedienne Joy Behar, an original panelist and American treasure who, this week, will celebrate her 20th anniversary!
There’s a reason Behar’s had such great longevity with the ABC daytime talk show. She became an instant standout on the panel program with her trademark humor, which breaks the ice on tough topics and cuts tension at the table when necessary. The outspoken comedienne is also an author, having penned The Great Gasbag: An A–Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World.
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And while the guest list for tomorrow’s Joy-centric episode is being kept under wraps, those showing up to help celebrate her two decades include Gloria Steinem, Meredith Vieira, a fellow comedian, a longtime friend, an outspoken conservative, a member of the press, and more.
She recently chatted with TV Insider about her two decades on the popular series, favorite guests, the importance of being able to laugh, and what she did during her two-year hiatus from The View.
Congratulations on 20 years! I recall when the show premiered you were only supposed to be on a few days a week.
Joy Behar: Thank you. Yes, the original concept was that everyone had a purpose to be there on the panel except for Barbara (Walters) because she’s Barbara! Meredith (Vieira) was there as the young, working mother. Starr Jones was a single woman in her 30s. We had the ‘young one’ (Debbie Matenopoulos) — I don’t know what she was doing there [Laughs] but she was young! Then, they had Barbara and me but they didn’t know what my purpose was so they promoted me as ‘a divorcee who will say anything to anyone!’ I was on three days a week and Barbara was on two. Then, that changed and I was on every day.
They found your purpose pretty quickly. You say things that are a lot of people are thinking, but might not say and you say them with humor, which makes tough topics more digestible.
Thank you for that. I think that’s part of my skill set. I was always the one in my family who would break the tension with a joke. I do that here on the show. It’s one continuous childhood for me.
As the ABC chatfest starts its 20th season with a primetime special, the longtime cohost looks back on what's made the show so good.
People can be set in their ways, perhaps more so these days. Do you feel you can reach people through humor?
Well, I feel sorry for people who don’t have a sense of humor. It’s like they’re missing [something]. There are people who, unfortunately, can’t see the humor in anything and there are people who have had terrible things happen to them and they can see the humor in life. That ability is something that should be valued. I believe you’re right. You can have a more in-depth conversation and people are less apt to get mad at you if you’re funny.
The topic of favorite children among parents came up recently and you said you were Barbara’s favorite. Is that true?
Yes. I think I was her favorite, but the others may say that [about themselves], too. I used to go to her house all the time in the Hamptons. She liked my husband. But who knows?
Former Saturday Night Live star Fred Armisen used to imitate you in sketches, fidgeting, saying, ‘So what? Who cares?’ What did you think of his portrayal of you?
I think he hit it on the nose. He got my attitude and my fidgetiness down. He got those two things.
How have you seen The View evolve over the years?
The show used to be a little lighter. It’s gotten more political over the years, but that’s not since [President Donald] Trump has gotten into office. We used to talk more about fashions and makeovers and women’s issues, but we have more of a focus on politics now. People come to us for that.
How did the show evolve into what it is today? Was there a catalyst?
We’re very educated women with points of view and we’re not afraid to speak out. I think the current group [we have on the panel] acknowledges the situation we’re in. We speak our minds and voice our opinions with impunity. That’s a very important function. That really kicked off after 9/11. We became very political after that. That turned us and the country around.
The show was not the same after you left in 2013. What were those two years away like for you?
I loved it. I did. Suddenly, I had all this free time. I could do whatever I wanted to do. I pursued more creative sides to my life. I wrote a solo show for myself and performed it down at the Cherry Lane Theatre. I started writing more plays. I had more dinner parties and I traveled more. When they asked me to come back, I thought I better do this because the country’s in trouble and I wanted to have my voice be heard. I was told that I should come back because the show was going to be even more political.
A look at ex-hosts (and soon-to-be-ex-hosts), ranked by how dramatic their exits are or were.
The View is so spontaneous. What’s the secret to that?
You really can’t predict what we’re going to say. We can plan the topics and even questions for the guests, but we don’t know what’s going to come out of us. It’s a live show. One reason we’re very popular is because of the unpredictability of what we’re going to say. That’s why the show has existed this long. We don’t take prisoners, if you get my meaning.
Things can get really tense among panelists. What happens afterwards?
It can get a little icy, but then it passes. I’m telling you the truth. The iciness is because we’ve had this sparky conversation and it’ll veer into the personal [side] and you’ll get annoyed. It’s chill, but then, the next day you forget about it. That’s the way we roll here.
Do you still do standup? The climate is tough these days.
I don’t want to do it right now. People bring their recorders and post on Twitter [selective remarks]. You can’t control it. There’s a ‘political correctness’ right now out there that makes it hard to get a laugh on something that you’d normally get a laugh about. I don’t do much standup anymore. Maybe I will later, but not now.
Recently, you got up out of your seat during the show and walked out into the audience to take a selfie with some audience members.
That was completely off the top of my head. I don’t normally jump out of my seat. I had run into these people in the street and they wanted a picture with me, but I looked horrible. Then, I see them in the audience and I thought I’m going to get that picture with them if it’s the last thing I do!
Late night talk show hosts tackle issues from a single, male perspective. How is The View different from those shows?
I don’t think we’re that different. They tackle things from a comedian’s point of view and that’s what I do. Women like to hear what other women have to say and we’re providing that.
Have you had favorite guests? Is there anyone you’d still like to meet?
I liked meeting Catherine Deneuve. I happen to be a big Francophile and Anglophile. I like to meet people from different countries. I love big stars from here, too, like Meryl Streep, who have interesting things to say. I also love having politicians on, especially from the other side [of my beliefs]. I can question them the way I want to.
Your dog, Bernie Behar, has more Instagram follower than some working actors!
He’s got about 30,000. People like Bernie. He’s so cute.
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What’s it like when past panelists come back?
We like that. Starr comes on once in a while. Sherri [Shepherd] and Meredith do, too. I enjoy seeing them.
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You sit in for Whoopi Goldberg as moderator on Fridays. How is your role different on those episodes?
You become more of a mother hen. You’re there to make sure everybody speaks and you keep the ball rolling. That’s my job when I’m in that spot.
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Is there a shout-out you’d like to give the fans who’ve watched you for 20 years on The View?
I totally appreciate you asking that question. After a while you realize how many people are on your team. There are a lot of people who are not. I think I have more fans than enemies at this point. That’s really kind of heartwarming to think that there are people who like you, like what you’re saying, are interested in your opinion, and maybe you have some influence in the way they think. All of that is very gratifying. I thank the audience. Without them, you haven’t got a job.
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The View is also now available on a podcast. Listen to the full show for free on Apple Podcasts or on your favorite podcast app every weekday afternoon.