‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Spoke Out on Bea Arthur’s Later Work: ‘She Could Tell a Dirty Joke’

by Clayton Edwards
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Most people know Bea Arthur for her famous television roles. She made a name for herself in “Maude” and became a household name in “Golden Girls,” a little later. Those performances are marked by a kind of steely dignity. However, in her later work, she showed just how bawdy she could be.

Rue McClanahan discussed her friend and “Golden Girls” co-star’s later work in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. After talking about the influence that Bea’s big TV roles had on how people see older women, the interviewer asked her about some of Arthur’s later work. Specifically, they asked about her “racier” work on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as well as her performance at the Roast of Pamela Anderson.

The Golden Girl Didn’t Shy Away from Blue Humor

McClanahan said that it wasn’t just the Pamela Anderson roast that Bea took part in. In fact, Arthur took part in several roasts, according to Rue. She went on to say that the fact that Bea did bawdy material really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, she got her start in theatre. That medium doesn’t have to be as clean as television.

She went on to say that her former “Golden Girls,” co-star also did a one-woman Broadway show. In that show, she did some jokes that were pretty raunchy. McClanahan said that some went a little too far for her tastes. However, she thought Arthur’s show was hilarious. Mostly because she knew how to make off-color jokes with class. Because of her time in the theatre, she understood that kind of humor and knew how to work with it. Even in some of the racier moments of both the “Roast of Pamela Anderson” and Bea Arthur’s Broadway show, she was never crass. Her humor was naughty but Arthur remained classy.

During the interview, Rue McClanahan said of her “Golden Girls” castmate, “Boy, she could tell a dirty joke. Oh my God, she was funny!”

For a great example of how the former Golden Girl could walk the line between raunchy and classy, check out this clip from her one-woman Broadway show.

“The Nun’s Story” (Mildly NSFW but Classy)

In fact, you can find the official live recording of her show “Just Between Friends” on YouTube. The former Golden Girl is consistently funny. At the same time, her voice and way of speaking lend an air of class to everything she says. Bea Arthur was an absolute treasure.

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