Flashback: The Beastie Boys Meet Joan Rivers - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: The Beastie Boys Meet Joan Rivers

The Beasties fight for their right (to party) on Rivers’ talk show in 1987

“How’d you three all get together?” Joan Rivers asked the Beastie Boys. “Juilliard?”

While the comment was snarky, Rivers seemed pleased to have the Beasties as guests on The Late Show, her short-lived late-night talk show on the fledgling Fox network. (This appearance dates from January 1987, about halfway through Rivers’ seven-month run, and two months after the rap trio released their chart-topping debut album Licensed to Ill.) She told the audience, “My next guests have previously been referred to as a bunch of loudmouth brats and kids that stomp around the stage like awkward thugs – well, to me, I just like to think of them as my guys.”

While introducing the band, however, Rivers flubbed the name of their album, calling it Licensed to Kill. After she put on her glasses and figured out the correct title, she told them, “That’s a stupid name for an album.” An off-camera Beastie shot back: “Do I detect a note of jealousy in your voice, Joan?” The late Rivers and the group were kindred spirits, unlikely as it might have seemed at the time: four iconic smart-asses from New York City.

The Beastie Boys performed “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” in full knucklehead mode, jumping around, posing, pushing each other down, rolling around, even doing a handstand. Onstage with them was DJ Hurricane and a go-go dancer named Eloise, gyrating in a bra and fishnets. But even though the performance is chaotic and sloppy, it’s also exhilarating: prime early Beasties.

Twelve years later, Adam Yauch (aka MCA) reflected on the band’s meathead image in this era, which he said was originally intended as parody: “By drinking so much beer and acting like sexist macho jerks we actually became just that,” he wrote in the liner notes to The Sounds of Science. “So I guess that the story could have a couple of possible morals. One might be, ‘Be careful of what you make fun or you might become it.’ But the other one, the one that I like is, ‘All of the sexist macho jerks in the world are just pretending cause they’re caught in a rut, and maybe, at some point in the future, when the planets line up in a certain way, they’ll all just snap out of it.'”

The Beasties also played the album closer “Time to Get Ill” during the show’s closing credits – or two and a half minutes of it, anyway. They did the line “I got more rhymes than Phyllis Diller” with extra vigor, perhaps considering her a peer of Rivers. And Ad-Rock replaced the line “I’m the king of all kings” with “I eat the Colonel’s wings.”

In between, the trio did an interview segment with Rivers, presenting her with a dismembered apple, amiably bantering with her and shaving a few years off their ages when asked. (Adam Horovitz, then 20, claimed to be 19. He turns 48 on Friday, October 31 – happy birthday, Ad-Rock!) Horovitz did his Pee-Wee Herman impression and sat on Rivers’ desk, while Yauch sat behind it, knocking over a glass of water. “I’m enjoying you,” Rivers told them, “because this is not my house.” Watching it now will make you miss both Rivers and Yauch all over again.

According to writer Chuck Eddy, who was in attendance at the taping to write a feature on the Beastie Boys for Creem, the group presented Rivers and her husband Edgar Rosenberg with a gift after the show. It was the book ESO: How You and Your Lover Can Give Each Other Hours of Extended Sexual Orgasm.

In This Article: Beastie Boys, Joan Rivers, Video


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