She was scratchy-voiced, out-spoken, loud, lewd and yet, lovable. Joan Rivers, legendary comedian, pioneer and provocateur (with the face of a doll, and the mouth of a sailor) has died at 81.
Joan’s biting wit was evident as early as 1965, when she made her first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”Proving to be a charming and capable host, she eventually got the coveted role as the first permanent guest host. She launched her own late night talk show in 1986, titled “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” that infamously led to Carson never speaking to her again.
Prolific as ever, she was also the author of twelve best-selling humor books and memoirs. But she really brought her brutal form of comedy and sarcasm to its natural pinnacle when she signed on to host the series “Fashion Police” with E! in 2002.
Though she remained a household name for the duration of her decades-long career, Rivers really hit her stride later in life when she (along with her daughter Melissa) transformed the red carpet, with its typically congratulatory banal patter, into a veritable entertainment event in and of itself. Pulling no punches, Joan and Melissa would both praise and/or skewer the fashion choices of A, B and C-list celebrities alike, with hilarious results.
As with many great comedians, her comic genius masked a deeper pain, and Rivers was as honest as she was funny in her writing, where she frankly revealed her own battles with bulimia, depression and suicide.
“I’d get an obscene phone call and I’d say, ‘Hold on a minute, let me get a cigarette.’”
Though Rivers was married twice, she remained famously single for the latter part of her life, dedicating herself to a myriad of causes ranging from PETA, to the Terrence Higgins Trust, to Habitat For Humanity, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
As a trail-blazing young female comedian in a male-dominated comedic industry of the ‘70s and ‘80s, River’s brash, unapologetic delivery made her a force to be reckoned with. Her influence was felt far and wide—as seen in the documentary about her Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work—inspiring an entire generation of new female comedians, from Sandra Bernhard to Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, and naturally, Sarah Silverman.
She will no doubt continue to inspire generations with her trademark humor, biting wit, balls-to-the-wall attitude, but mostly for just being herself.