Caution: The article you’re about to read contains discussions of ham-on-ham violence.
Next week, FX premieres the long-awaited second season of Ryan Murphy‘s Feud anthology, Capote Vs. The Swans, delving into the gossip war between the infamous author and his gaggle of New York City socialite frenemies.
The occasion had us thinking on some of the other celebrity feuds that shook the culture, and there’s perhaps no duel of the divas that’s had us hanging on to every catfight, every shady comment, every public makeup and meltdown more than that between TV personalities Joan Rivers and Miss Piggy, nominated in this year’s special Queerties Awards category for Best Feud, brought to you by Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans. They are among several other famous frenemies up for the coveted award, including Coco Montrese and Alyssa Edwards, Elton John and Madonna, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and more.
How about we take this to the next level?
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So, where did this feud all begin? Were these two comedy queens always at odds with one another, or was there a time when they actually got along? Well, it depends who you ask…
In 2014, E! ran a short exposé called Behind The Feud, a celebrity-filled tell-all that dug into the messy history of this legendary mother-off, featuring Rivers, Piggy, and stars like Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and (randomly) Gene Simmons from KISS sharing their sides of the story.
As legend has it, both brassy broads got their start on the stand-up circuit in the 1970s—Rivers had a rapid ascent to the spotlight, and Piggy? Not so much….
“She wasn’t funny,” Rivers croaked. “So, naturally, I wanted her right by my side at all times.”
But there’s was a shaky friendship built on barely concealed jealousy, and things turned sour when—as the E! special claims—Rivers auditioned for ABC’s The Muppet Show behind Piggy’s back, throwing the porcine princess into one of her classic fits of rage and destruction. However, Piggy ultimately got the part—probably because she was, you know, an actual Muppet.
Still, they managed to bury the hatchet for their first actual on-screen appearance together: The 1984 cinematic masterpiece (and we’re not joking about that) The Muppets Take Manhattan, where Rivers played Eileen, a woman who works at a department story makeup counter with Piggy. Their scene, which devolves into a fit of giggles and powder, is one of the movie’s comedic highlights.
Their friendship seemed stable in the ensuing years, and the two even attempted to star in a sci-fi sitcom together called Bjørnbots for über producer Garry Marshall—at least that’s what the E! special tells us—but two divas on set was two too many for that to work out.
In 1986, Jim Henson and Kermit The Frog made an appearance on Rivers’ BBC late-night talk show Can We Talk?, where the host couldn’t help but ask prying questions about Kermit and Piggy’s sex life, which clearly flustered the little green guy.
Decades later, Miss Piggy made her long-awaited debut on Rivers’ Fashion Police to talk about the magnetic Muppet’s iconic style over the years. Things started off well enough, but when Rivers queued up a photo of one of Piggy’s more regrettable fashion faux pas, all those years of tension came bubbling back up to the surface.
Taunting her old rival, the host asked whether Piggy lives in “a house made of straw, or wood, or bricks?,” referencing the classic Three Little Pigs. Stone-faced, the surly swine shot back, “You need to graduate to adult books, deary.”
“You’re a b*tch,” Rivers bluntly replied. But Piggy wasn’t going to take that one lying down. “Please, Joan, please—have some dignity… or did it get sucked out the last time you had lipo!” Ouch, brutal!
Then, in 2014, Miss Piggy threw down the gauntlet by announcing her own lifestyle brand and shared her plans to claim the title of “The Queen Of QVC”—a title long assumed by none other than Rivers, who had a successful Classics Collection jewelry line on the home-shopping network. Oh, girlfriend, it was on.
A paparazzi camera caught the two sparring at a QVC red carpet event, which ended in Piggy hiii-yah!-ing Rivers face right into a cake. The theatrics carried over to social media, where the two traded barbs:
“[Joan Rivers] wants to mess with moi?,” Piggy tweeted. “QVC clearly knows when they need to bring in some fresh talent to their line-up.”
“Look who’s talking,” Rivers responded. “You’ve had so much work done, you can oink through your ears.”
Was it all—even the E! “Behind The Feud” special itself—a publicity stunt to drive social media attention and engagement to QVC? Well, yeah, it definitely was. But like all things related to the Muppets, the daffy, theatrics-filled rivalry brilliantly blurred the line between reality and surreality, letting the drama spill out into our world and keeping us entertained for decades.
When Rivers sadly passed later that year, Miss Piggy was one of the first celebrities to release a statement on the loss of her longtime frenemy:
“Moi is deeply saddened by the passing of my friend and fellow legend, Joan Rivers,” Piggy wrote. “From our first appearance together as battling make-up counter girls in The Muppets Take Manhattan to our recent appearances together on QVC (Joan called it ‘The Thrilla in Manolos’), we were always two of a kind. I will miss her. Can we talk? You bet we can, Joan! Forever and ever!”
Aww. It may have been rocky goings there for a little while, but that’s quite a lovely send-off for an old friend. Because Miss Piggy and Joan Rivers knew each other, we’ve all be changed for good.
Don’t forget: You can vote for Joan Rivers vs. Miss Piggy in Best Feud—and all other categories for the 2024 Queerties Awards—once a day between now and February 22.