Joy Behar Recalls Growing Up in a Tenement With Gambler Father

Joy Behar opened up about her childhood, living in a tenement with her family years before finding fame.

During an episode of The View’s “Behind the Table” podcast on Wednesday, May 1, Joy, 81, and executive producer Brian Teta discussed Whoopi Goldberg’s new book, Bits & Pieces: My Mother, My Brother and Me.

“She’s had a tough time as a kid,” Joy said. They talked about how in the book, Whoopi, 68, said she didn’t know “she was poor” as a kid. Joy said she could “totally” relate to that feeling.

“I grew up in a tenement. She grew up in a project. It’s not that dissimilar,” Joy explained. “It had no elevator. We lived on the fifth floor.”

“We wouldn’t have been that broke if my father was not a compulsive gambler,” she added. “Because my mother worked, and he worked and he worked for Coca-Cola. You know Jimmy Hoffa gave them their birthdays off, OK. These big teamsters with party hats. So we were broke because he gave all of his money to the horses.”

Still, Joy pointed out that members of her family wore “mink stoles” and went to the theater. They would all go to get Chinese food after going out to the theater.

“When we had a wedding, everybody looked great,” she shared. “All of their money went into clothing, food and entertainment. We didn’t have a car. We didn’t have a house.”

Joy Behar Recalls Growing Up in a Tenement With Gambler Father
ABC/Lou Rocco

The comedian promised that she would write about her experience “at some point” in the future. Joy explained the moment she realized her family wasn’t wealthy.

“I got the clue when I got a little older and I went to the dramatic school,” she recalled. “I met a girl there who lived in Atlantic Beach. And she invited me to go to her house, and her house was what I thought was a mansion. Over the fireplace was an oil painting of her. And there was a Baby Grand in the living room. I looked around and I said, ‘We’re poor.’ They’ve been pulling the wool over my eyes with their theaters and their Chinese food This is money over here. That was my first recognition.”

She said she was probably 12 at the time of the visit at her friend’s house. However, Joy pointed out that her childhood was still full of great moments.

“I had a family that loved me,” she said. “Just like Whoopi said, her mother loved her. Her mother made a beautiful life for her even though they had no money, and I was very much loved as a child. I always say, ‘My family gave me everything but an agent.’ That I needed!”

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