Comedy legend, Joan Rivershas died at 81. Rivers was undergoing surgery on her vocal cords at a clinic in New York City on Aug. 28 and according to reports, went into cardiac arrest during the procedure. She was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital and placed on a medically induced coma and spent the final eight days of her life on life support. Joan’s daughter, Melissa Rivers made the difficult choice to take her mother off life support and confirmed Joan’s passing at 1:17 p.m. (September 4) surrounded by family, in a press release.
“My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa stated in a press release. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing too.” (see full press release below)
Joan was known for paving the way for comediennes. She was raw, honest, incredibly insightful and obviously hilarious. Her raspy voice and often offensive and foul-mouthed humor is what made her a star and beloved to us all. While many comedians make you squirm in your seats with their words, Joan had the power to make you want to get up and hide under said seat.
“I mock everybody, regardless of race, creed or color,” she told the Toronto Star in July. “Every joke I make, no matter how tasteless, is there to draw attention to something I really care about.”
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky on June 8, 1933, to Russian immigrants. Her agent, Tony Rivers, suggested that she change her name while she was in college. Rivers spent her childhood in Brooklyn until her parents moved to upper-class Westchester County, New York. She believed she inherited her sense of humor from her father, who was a doctor.
Joan got her big break in 1965 whens he appeared on the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and eventually served as a guest host on the show. After wiping his tears, Carson proclaimed that Joan was going to be a star, and he was right. She scored her own show (“That Show” aka “The Joan Rivers Show”) and was thrust into fame.
Joan’s six decade-long career was a stunning testimony to her undeniable talents and her drive to make a name for herself. Comedy was perfect for the funny woman. She proved that jokes were not only entertaining, but therapeutic, often allowing her to deal with life’s ills with a laugh. While on an interview on the “Today Show” with Lester Holt, Rivers said with a chuckle, “I’d rather be a good looking corpse, than in my casket looking like someone from my class reunion.”
Clearly, nothing was off limits: Jews, Blacks, whatever, she tackled it. Her best jokes were often about herself. She was the first to mock her own facelifts and various other plastic surgeries. Her 13-year-old grandson Cooper often made an appearance in those jokes. She says he called her “Nana New Face” and that he’s never seen her without bandages on.
Joan was one of the hardest working women in the business. She was 81 when she died, but she was nowhere near retirement age! She was performing stand up comedy up until the night she went into cardiac arrest. She had a full circle career moment as she appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon for the first time in 20 years in May 2014. “It’s very special for me to be back,” Rivers told Fallon. This was the show that helped launch her to stardom in the 60s, so her return was was almost poetic.
She was one of the fabulous co-hosts of E!’s “Fashion Police,” she hosted red carpets from MTV VMAs to the Emmys, she starred on Broadway in “Sally Marr…and Her Escorts,” she was the author of “Diary Of A Mad Diva,” she starred in “Celebrity Apprentice” and won, she was the star of the reality series, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” and hosted two online shows “In Bed With Joan” and “Drunken Celebrity Phone Calls.”
We all know the phrase, “Who are you wearing?” But did you know that it was muva Joan who originally coined it? Pioneer is putting it lightly. Joan paved the way for comediennes as she not only broke through the glass ceiling of the entertainment industry, but she left it open for more women to burst through.
“Can we talk?” may very well be the biggest Joan Riverisms there is. This catch phrase defined her entire career. There’s not a soul on earth that Joan couldn’t or wouldn’t “talk” to.
Get to know more about Joan’s full life and watch the video above.