Joan Rivers, Unflinching And Iconic Comedian, Dies At 81

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Comedian Joan Rivers has been a staple on television, from stand-up to the Tonight Show to her various reality shows to her distinctive red carpet fashion coverage. Comedian Joan Rivers has been a staple on television, from stand-up to the Tonight Show to her various reality shows to her distinctive red carpet fashion coverage. (Courtesy of the author)

Joan Rivers, the legendary no-holds-barred standup comedian, author, and TV icon, died Thursday at 81.

Known for her distinctive unflinchingly honest comedy style, Rivers was a constant presence on stage and on television. She launched her career in the Greenwich Village comedy scene performing at clubs including The Bitter End and The Gaslight Cafe, and became a major star on television on The Tonight Show, on which she regularly guest-hosted for Johnny Carson, whom she frequently acknowledged as her mentor. 

Rivers later appeared in her own late night (The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers) and daytime talk shows (The Joan Rivers Show), for which she won an Emmy in 1989. Later in her career, Rivers found a new generation of fans with cutting red carpet fashion coverage of major awards shows. In the last decade of her career, she was also an influential host of reality TV programs, including Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? and Fashion Police.

Rivers was also the author of 12 memoir and humor books, including 2014's Diary Of A Mad Diva. In 2010, she was the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and lately she had been working on a weekly web series, In Bed with Joan, in which she invited celebrities and fellow comedians into her bed for interviews.

Throughout her career, Rivers' standup material expressed a hard-edged point of view, with self-deprecating thoughts about sex and doomed relationships, the female image and her own plastic surgery, aging and death. Rivers frequently spoke about the double standards and sacrifices she made as a female performer in show business.

Joan Rivers hosts the Leonard Lopate Show. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

Joan Rivers appeared on the Leonard Lopate Show regularly. In 2014, she came to the studio twice: once in June to talk about her latest book — and once back in January, when she filled in for Lopate, talking about comedy with performers Deon Cole, Billy Eichner, and Reza Farahan. Here are several of Joan Rivers' many appearances on WNYC:


Hear Joan Rivers' appearance as guest host of the Leonard Lopate Show from Jan. 2014

Rivers reflects on her latest book, Diary Of A Mad Diva, on the Leonard Lopate Show in June 2014.

Rivers talks about her reality show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” comedy special Don't Start With Me, and Fashion Police on the Leonard Lopate Show in Feb. 2013.

Rivers on her book, I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me on the Leonard Lopate Show in June 2012.

Rivers and director Ricki Stern on the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work on The Takeaway's Movie Date podcast in June 2010.

Rivers talks about her book Men Are Stupid...And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery, on the Leonard Lopate Show in Jan. 2009.



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Comments [6]

Hazel R. Feldman from Manhattan

I had the delightful experience of meeting Joan at a WOR in-person broadcast at Sardi’s hosted by Joan Hamburg. The two-hour show had several guests for 15-20 minute segments. Joan's turn came. She looked elegant, was charming with the host and audience. During breaks, she continued to speak, take questions, take photos, and simply indulge the audience, who was obviously smitten with her. When her time finished, she lingered, showed no attitude and genuinely thanked all of us for our support. Yes, she was acerbic, irreverent, and went over the line of good taste at times. However, she was kind, sweet, and thankful for her many fans. Mostly, she was funny.

Sep. 05 2014 06:36 PM
Marlene Riley

I was raised in the Caribbean not to speak badly about the dead.Stan Chaz from Brooklyn and many others should heed to that advice for all the obvious reasons. RIP Ms. Joan Rivers. You made me laugh out loud and will be missed by me.

Sep. 05 2014 03:12 PM
stan chaz from Brooklyn

With all due respect to Joan and her fans:
She made me laugh yes, my mind, Joan was someone who - after her initial success- turned into yet another arrogant /rich elitist ---while masquerading as an free-thinking iconoclast.
Below are some of Joan Rivers demeaning comments in New York magazine, ridiculing the Occupy Wall Street protests:
So how does she feel about Occupy Wall Street, in general? "I think Occupy Wall Street was terrific the first week, and it has now turned into a very happy druggy party. I suggest they all get jobs and go back to work," she responded. "What was an amazing and wonderful thing, I now find just ridiculous. Everyone’s on drugs and everybody’s singing, and they now have a DVD out, and now they want to do a reality show." Any fashion advice for the protesters? "Wash, rinse, and repeat."

Sep. 05 2014 02:21 PM
Jane Summer from Westchester

My brilliant friend, the actor Anthony Holland (, always told me the three kindest people in Hollywood were Gene Hackman, Liza Minnelli and Joan Rivers. I always found the latter the hardest to believe, what with her harsh persona, but when Rivers showed up at Tony's memorial at the Public Theater with her dog in her arms, I knew instantly how right he was. I became a fan from that moment on.

Sep. 05 2014 10:35 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Correction: G-d Bless. (No disrespect.) Ale-ha Ha-shalom.

Sep. 04 2014 05:53 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Oh, my. I've had issues with Joan. But NEVER with her indisputable comedic genius. I'm floored. God Bless! Rest in peace and power.

Sep. 04 2014 05:28 PM

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