Joan Alexandra Molinsky (June 8, 1933 – September 4, 2014), known professionally as Joan Rivers, was an American comedian, actress, writer, producer, and television host. She was noted for her often controversial comedic persona—heavily self-deprecating or sharply acerbic, especially toward celebrities and politicians.
Rivers rose to prominence in 1965 as a guest on . Hosted by her mentor, , the show established Rivers' comedic style. In 1986, with her own rival program, , Rivers became the first woman to host a late night network television talk show. She subsequently hosted (1989–1993), winning a for Outstanding Talk Show Host. Since the mid-1990s, she became known for her comedic awards show celebrity interviews, and in 2009, she was the Winner. Rivers co-hosted the celebrity fashion show from 2010 to 2014 and starred in the reality series (2011–2014) with daughter . She was the subject of the documentary (2010).
In addition to marketing a line of jewelry and apparel on the shopping channel, Rivers authored 12 best-selling books and three LP comedy albums under her own name: Mr. Phyllis And Other Funny Stories (Warner Bros 1965), The Next To Last Joan Rivers Album (Buddah 1969), and What Becomes A Semi-Legend Most? (Geffen 1983). She was nominated in 1984 for a for her album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?; and was nominated in 1994 for the for her performance of the title role in ...and Her Escorts. In 2015, Rivers posthumously received a for her book, Diary of a Mad Diva.
In 1968, television critic called Rivers "quite possibly the most intuitively funny woman alive". In 2017, magazine ranked her sixth (behind , , , , and ) on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time, and in October the same year, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Joan Alexandra Molinsky was born on June 8, 1933, in , New York, to immigrants Beatrice (née Grushman) and Meyer C. Molinsky, who graduated from . She had an elder sister named Barbara Waxler. Rivers spent her early life in and in Brooklyn, where she attended the progressive and now-defunct Brooklyn Ethical Culture School and Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, a college preparatory day school, where she was co-chairman of her school, due to her past experiences in theatrical activities. Within 2 years, she performed in the School Cavalcades, and in 1949, aged 16, she was vice president of the Dramatic Club. She graduated from the Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, in 1950, at almost 17. In her adolescence, Rivers relocated with her family to , north of New York City. Rivers stated in interviews that she was throughout her childhood and adolescence, and that it had a profound impact on her , which she would struggle with throughout her life.
She attended between 1950 and 1952, and graduated from in 1954 with a in and ; she was a member of . Before entering show business, Rivers worked at various jobs such as a tour guide at , a writer/proofreader at an advertising agency and a fashion consultant at . During this period, agent Tony Rivers advised her to change her name, so she chose Joan Rivers as her stage name.
During the late 1950s, Rivers appeared in a short off- run play, Driftwood, co-starring . It ran for six weeks on playwright Maurice Tei Dunn's apartment on 49th Street, in NYC, according to an interview with . Rivers performed in numerous comedy clubs in the area of New York City in the early 1960s, including , and . Between 1963 and 1964, Rivers, along with Jim Connell and , were in the cabaret act "Jim, Jake & Joan". A 1964 appearance at The Bitter End resulted in their appearance in the motion picture, Once Upon A Coffee House, which was also Rivers' first big screen credit. The group parted ways shortly afterwards, on which member Holmes later recalled: "We were supposed to do this rally for , who was running for New York senator in 1964. We were going to play at the rally. Joan showed up with a [Republican Senate nominee Kenneth] button on. And Jim said take that off. She said no — she was sticking to her political guns. And Jim said, "Who needs you, anyway?" That was the end [of Jim, Jake & Joan] ...".
She also made an appearance as a guest on the television program originating from New York, hosted at the time by . By 1965, Rivers had a stint on as a gag writer and participant; she was "the bait" to lure people into ridiculous situations for the show. After seven auditions during a period of three years, she made her first appearance on with new host , on February 17, 1965. Rivers credited this episode to be her breakthrough, as Carson said to her on the air "you're gonna be a star". Following this appeareance, she became a frequent guest on the program and a close friend of Carson.
As her profile raised significantly in the subsequent years, she started to make guest-appearances in numerous popular shows, including , , and Girl Talk, with . She also wrote material for the puppet . She had a brief role in the cult drama film (1968), starring , and at the time, she also had a short-lived syndicated daytime talk show, That Show with Joan Rivers, which premiered on September 16, 1968. Each episode had a theme and Rivers did an opening monologue based on the day's topic. The show also featured an expert on the subject and a celebrity guest; was her first guest. In the middle of the 1960s, she released at least two comedy albums, The Next to Last Joan Rivers Album and Rivers Presents Mr. Phyllis & Other Funny Stories.
By the 1970s, Rivers continued to be a prominent fixture on television. Along with her other guest-spots on the late-night circuit, she also made appearances in , had a semi-regular stint on and guest-starred in Here's Lucy. Rivers made her Broadway debut in the play Fun City, which opened on January 2, 1972 and co-starred , and . It ran for only nine performance amid a negative critical reception. Though a reviewer criticized the production as "frenetic to the point of being frazzled", he praised Rivers as "a deft comedy writer" and "a very funny lady". From 1972 to 1976, she narrated , an animated segment for .
In 1973, Rivers wrote the made-for-television movie , a black comedy starring as an ugly girl who becomes beautiful after undergoing plastic surgery, and takes revenge of people who previously mistreated her. The film, based on a Rivers' story, became a ratings success and has been considered a "cult classic". She also wrote a thrice-weekly column for The Chicago Tribune from 1973 to 1976, and published her first book, Having a Baby Can Be a Scream, in 1974; she described it as a "catalogue of gynaecological anxieties". In 1978, Rivers made her directorial debut with the comedy , which she also wrote and starred her friend in his film debut as the world's first pregnant man. The film flopped at the box office and was panned by critics. of The New York Times concluded: "Miss Rivers has turned to directing without paying much heed to whether a whole movie constructed from one-liners is worth even the sum of its parts". During the same decade, she was the opening act for singers , , and on the .
During the early and mid-1980s, Rivers found further success on stand-up and television, through the decade subsequently proved to be controversial for her. The year 1983, in particular, was very successful; she performed at in February, did the March stand-up special , hosted the April 9 episode of , and released the best-selling comedy album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?, which reached No. 22 on the U.S. and was nominated for a . By August 1983, Carson established Rivers as his first regular guest host on The Tonight Show. At the time, she spoke of her primary Tonight Show life as having been "Johnny Carson's daughter", a reference to his longtime mentoring of her.
During the 1980s and 1990s Rivers served on the advisory board of the . A friend of and President , Rivers attended a in 1983, and later, at the invitation of Nancy, spoke at luncheon at the . In 1984, Rivers published a best-selling humor book, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abramowitz, a mock memoir of her brassy, loose comedy character, which was mostly jokes about promiscuity - of a type that would have been considered unacceptable even in a generation earlier. A television special based on the character, a mock tribute called Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abramowitz, later aired on . She later wrote her next book, Enter Talking, which was released in 1986, and described her rise to stardom and the evolution of her comedic persona.Rivers in 1987
In 1986 came the move that ended Rivers' longtime friendship with Johnny Carson. The soon-to-launch announced that it was giving her a late night talk show, , making Rivers the first woman to have her own late-night talk show on a major network. The new network planned to broadcast the show 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. , making her a Carson competitor. Carson learned of the show from Fox and not from Rivers. In the documentary, Johnny Carson: King of Late Night, Rivers said she only called Carson to discuss the matter after learning he may have already heard about it and that he immediately hung up on her. In the same interview, she said that she later came to believe that maybe she should have asked for his blessing before taking the job. Rivers was banned from appearing on the Tonight Show, a decision respected by Carson's first two successors and . Rivers did not appear on the Tonight Show again until February 17, 2014, when she made a brief appearance on new host 's first episode. On March 27, 2014, Rivers returned to the show for an interview.
The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers premiered on October 9, 1986 and soon turned out to be flecked by tragedy. When Rivers challenged FOX executives, who wanted to fire her husband as the show's producer, the network fired them both on May 15, 1987. Three months later, on August 14, 1987, Rosenberg committed suicide in Philadelphia; Rivers blamed the tragedy on his "humiliation" by Fox. Rivers credited Nancy Reagan with helping her after her husband's suicide. Fox attempted to continue the show with a new name () and rotating guest hosts.
During the airing of her late-night show, she made the voice-over role of Dot Matrix in the science-fiction comedy (1987), a parody mainly on . The film, directed and co-starring , was a critical and commercial success, later becoming a "cult classic". After the Fox controversy, her career went into hiatus. Rivers subsequently appeared on various television shows, including the Christmas Special in December 1989. She also appeared as one of the center square occupants on the 1986–89 version of The , hosted by . On September 5, 1989, , her daytime television program, premiered in . The show, which ran for five seasons, was a success and earned Rivers the in 1990 for Outstanding Talk Show Host., in a September 1990 article, asserted: "The Joan Rivers Show is a better showcase for her funny edginess than her doomed 1988 Fox nighttime program was. The best thing about her daytime talker is that Rivers' stream-of-consciousness chattiness is allowed to guide the show — you never know where the conversation is going to go".
In addition to winning the Emmy for The Joan Rivers Show, Rivers starred in the made-for-television comedy How to Murder a Millionaire, which premiered in May 1990 on . In the film, co-starring and , she took on the role of a matron possessed with the idea her husband is trying to kill her. Also in 1990, she started to design jewelry, clothing and beauty products for the shopping channel . On this professional endeavor, Rivers said: "In those days, only dead celebrities went on [QVC]. My career was over. I had bills to pay. [...] It also intrigued me at the beginning". The sales of Rivers' products exceed billion by 2014, making her one of the network's top sellers. In 1991, she wrote her next book, Still Talking, which described the cancellation of her late-night show and her husband's suicide. Until 1993, she received five additional Emmy nominations for her daytime talk-show The Joan Rivers Show — two for Outstanding Writing – Special Class and three for Outstanding Talk Show Host.
In 1994, Rivers and daughter first hosted the pre-awards show for the and, beginning in 1995, E!'s annual pre-awards show as well. Rivers and her daughter quickly became credited for revolutionizing the red carpet as a space to showcase designers' work and celebrity interactions. "Joan and Melissa were the first people who came out and made it more of a true conversation between star and reporter", E!'s Senior Vice President of production, Gary Snegaroff, remarked to . "They asked about what [actresses] were wearing because that's what the magazines would cover after the fact, and turned it into a candid conversation on the carpet where anything could happen". Rivers and Melissa, at the time, both portrayed themselves in the made-for-television drama Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story, which chronicled the aftermath of Rosenburg's suicide. It aired on on May 15, 1994. The next year, she wrote her book Jewelry by Joan Rivers.
Influenced by the stand-up comedy of , Rivers co-wrote and starred in a play about Bruce's mother , who was also a and influenced her son's development as a comic. After 27 previews, Sally Marr ... and Her Escorts, a play "suggested by the life of Sally Marr" ran on Broadway for 50 performances in May and June 1994. The production received mixed reviews, but her performance was applauded by critics. The Chicago Sun Times found Rivers to be "compelling" as an actress while The New York Times wrote: "[...] [S]he is exuberant, fearless and inexhaustible. If you admire performers for taking risks, then you can't help but applaud her efforts". Rivers was nominated for a as Outstanding Actress in a Play and a for Best Actress in a Play for playing Marr. Beginning in 1997, Rivers hosted her own radio show on in New York City, and wrote three self-help books: Bouncing Back: I've Survived Everything ... and I Mean Everything ... and You Can Too! in 1997,From Mother to Daughter: Thoughts and Advice on Life, Love and Marriage in 1998, and Don't Count the Candles: Just Keep the Fire Lit!, in 1999.
Rivers was a guest speaker at the opening of the American Operating Room Nurses' San Francisco Conference in 2000, and by the first part of the decade, she continued to host the awards' red carpet for the channel. Between 2002 and 2004, she embarked on tour with her one-person comedy show Joan Rivers: Broke and Alone, which was presented in the United Kingdom ( and ) and in the United States (, and ), to generally positive reviews.The Telegraph felt that her "hilarious assaults on fellow celebrities and tirades about the perils of ageing and plastic surgery are well worth the expense", while The Guardian remarked that "Rivers returned triumphant, a victorious heavyweight after a great fight, conscious that she is still the champion".
In 2003, Rivers left the network red-carpet show for a three-year contract (valued at –8 million) to cover award shows' red carpet events for the . Meanwhile, Rivers guest-starred as herself in several television series, including , , and , and also voiced herself for a brief scene in the 2004 animated fantasy film . In 2004, Rivers was part of the formal receiving party when was placed at the . On December 3, 2007, Rivers performed at the 79th Royal Variety Show at the , England, with and present. She wrote and starred in the play Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, which was directed by , and presented through 2008 at the in Los Angeles, the and the , to a mixed critical reception.
Throughout the decade, Rivers often appeared in various television game shows, including , , and Celebrity Family Feud, in which she competed with her daughter against and . In 2009, Rivers and daughter Melissa were contestants on the season eight of . During the season, each celebrity raised money for a charity of his or her choice; Rivers selected God's Love We Deliver. After a with poker player , following Melissa's on-air firing (elimination) by Donald Trump, Rivers left the telling and that she would not be in the next morning. Rivers later returned to the show and on May 3, 2009, she became a finalist in the series. The other finalist was Duke. On the season finale, which aired live on May 10, Rivers was announced the winner and hired to be the 2009 Celebrity Apprentice.
Also in 2009, Rivers was a special "pink-carpet" presenter for the broadcast of the parade, was in a , and her reality show, , premiered on . The program, which ran for two seasons, followed Rivers traveling around the United States interviewing self-made millionaires. She also wrote two books in 2009: Murder at the Academy Awards (R): A Red Carpet Murder Mystery and Men Are Stupid...And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery (with Valerie Frankel).
A documentary film about Rivers, , premiered at the on May 6, 2010. The film follows Rivers for 14 months, mostly during the 76th year of her life, and made an effort to "[peel] away the mask" and expose the "struggles, sacrifices and joy of living life as a ground breaking female performer." The documentary found commercial success in its limited release and was acclaimed by critics for providing "an honest, behind-the-scenes look at [Rivers]' career — and at show business in general". Beginning on September 10, 2010, Rivers co-hosted the show , along with , , and , commenting on celebrity fashion. The show started as a half-hour program but due to its success with viewers, it was expanded to one hour on March 9, 2012. The August 26, 2014 episode of Fashion Police, about the and the 2014 , was her last television appearance before her death.
In 2011, Rivers appeared in a commercial for , which debuted during the broadcast of , and was featured as herself in the season two of 's self-titled show , where she performed on-stage. Also in 2011, Rivers and her daughter starred in the reality show , which premiered on . The series follows her moving in with her daughter to California to be closer to her family. The show ran for four seasons until 2014. On the December 4, 2011 episode of , "", Rivers took on the role of Annie Dubinsky, an agent trying to revive 's career. Hayden Childs of praised the choice of having Rivers guest star since she was able to "employ her trademark humor within the world of The Simpsons without hijacking the plot or satire". In 2012, she guest-starred in two episodes of two series: and .
Rivers released her eleventh book I Hate Everyone...Starting with Me on June 5, 2012. It received generally positive reviews and made for several weeks. The New York Times remarked that there were "more punch lines per paragraph than any book I've read in years", and Publishers Weekly felt that "Rivers is equally passionate and opinionated on every subject she discusses. Hilarious and undeniably original". On August 7, 2012, Rivers showed up in to protest that the warehouse club would not sell the book. She handcuffed herself to a shopping cart and shouted through a megaphone. The police were called to the scene and she left without incident; no arrests were made. On March 5, 2013, she launched the online talk show on YouTube. In it, Rivers invited a different guest to talk to her in bed about different things including their past, their love life and their career.
Rivers released her twelfth book, Diary of a Mad Diva, on July 1, 2014, which also made The NY Times Best Seller list. For the book, she posthumously won the in 2015. Before her death, she filmed a part, along with other female comedians, for the documentary MAKERS: Women in Comedy, which premiered on PBS in October 2014.
He was an epiphany. Lenny told the truth. It was a total affirmation for me that I was on the right track long before anyone said it to me. He supplied the revelation that personal truth can be the foundation of comedy, that outrageousness can be cleansing and healthy. It went off inside me like an enormous flash.
— Rivers on seeing perform at a local club while she was in college influenced her developing style
During her 55-year career as a comedian, her tough-talking style of satirical humor was both praised and criticized as truthful, yet too personal, too gossipy, and very often abrasive. Nonetheless, with her ability to "tell it like it is," she became a pioneer of contemporary stand-up comedy. Commenting about her style, she told biographer , "Maybe I started it. We're a very gossipy culture. All we want to know now is private lives." However, her style of humor, which often relied on making jokes about her own life and the lives of celebrities and public figures, was sometimes criticized as insensitive. Her jokes about and 's weight, for instance, were often commented on, although Rivers would never apologize for her humor.
Rivers, who was Jewish, was also criticized for making jokes about and later explained, "This is the way I remind people about the Holocaust. I do it through humor", adding, "my husband lost his entire family in the Holocaust." Her joke about the victims of the similarly came under criticism, but she again refused to apologize, stating, "I know what those girls went through. It was a little stupid joke." She received multiple death threats throughout her career. Rivers accepted such criticism as part of her using social satire as a form of humor: "I've learned to have absolutely no regrets about any jokes I've ever done ... You can tune me out, you can click me off, it's OK. I am not going to bow to . But you do have to learn, if you want to be a satirist, you can't be part of the party."
As an unknown stand-up comedian out of college, she struggled for many years before finding her comic style. She did stints in the and found that she disliked the older style of comedy at the time, such as 's, who she felt was a pioneer female comedian. Her breakthrough came at in Chicago in 1961, where she was dubbed "the best girl since ," who also got her start there. But May became her and fellow comedian 's role model, as Rivers saw her as "an assertive woman with a marvelous, fast mind and, at the same time, pretty and feminine." It was also there that she learned "self reliance," she said, "that I didn't have to talk down in my humor" and could still earn an income by making intelligent people laugh. "I was really born as a comedian at Second City. I owe it my career."
In early 1965, at the suggestion of comedian , Johnny Carson gave Rivers, whom he billed as a comedy writer, her debut appearance on his show. Cosby, who knew Rivers from their early stand-up days, described her as "an intelligent girl without being a weirdo ... a human being, not a kook." Sitting alongside Johnny after her monologue, she displayed an intimate, conversational style which he appreciated, and she was invited back eight more times that year.Time magazine compared her humor to that of , by expressing "how to be neurotic about practically everything," but noting that "her style and femininity make her something special." Rivers also compared herself to Allen, stating: "He was a writer, which I basically was ... and talking about things that affected our generation that nobody else talked about."The New York Times critic likewise compared her to Allen, explaining that her "style was personal, an autobiographical stream-of-consciousness."
Rivers' image contrasted starkly with Carson's stage demeanor, which was one of the reasons he made her co-host according to critic , who compared their style of humor: Where Carson is scrupulously polite, Rivers is bitchy; where he is low-key, she is overheated; where he is Midwest, Waspy and proper, she is urban, ethnic and gossipy. Carson conducts interviews as if he were at the country club; Rivers does hers at the kitchen table. In her personal life, she had fewer of those neurotic or intense character traits, according to Ralph Schoenstein, who dated her and worked with her on her humor books. He said, "She has no airs. She doesn't stand on ceremony. The woman has absolutely no pretense. She'll tell you everything immediately. Joan isn't cool—she's completely open. It's all grist. It's her old thing—'Can we talk?'" According to biographer , Rivers' humor was notable for taking aim at and overturning what had been considered acceptable female behavior. By her bravura she broke through long-standing taboos in humor, which paved the way for other women, including , and .
In 2002, Rivers told the that she was a . On January 28, 2014, during a conversation between Rivers and Reza Farahan of the , Melissa Rivers interjected to clarify that she and her mother were ", " Republicans. Rivers was raised in ; she stated in a 2008 interview that she considered herself to be more and she "did not believe in the afterlife."
Rivers was one of only four Americans invited to the on April 9, 2005.
Rivers' first marriage was in 1955 to James Sanger, the son of a merchandise manager. The marriage lasted six months and was annulled on the basis that Sanger did not want children and had not informed Rivers before the wedding.
Rivers married on July 15, 1965. Their only child, , was born on January 20, 1968. Joan Rivers had one grandson, Cooper, born Edgar Cooper Endicott in 2000. Along with his mother and grandmother, Cooper was featured in the series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? Rivers was married to Rosenberg until his in 1987, four days after she asked him for a separation. She would later describe her marriage to Rosenberg as a "total sham", complaining bitterly about his treatment of her during their 22-year marriage. In a 2012 interview with , Rivers said she had several extramarital affairs when married to Rosenberg, including a one-night affair with actor in the 1960s and an affair with actor . In the 1990s, she was in an eight year relationship with the commissioner of the , disabled World War II veteran, of the .
In her book Bouncing Back, Rivers described how she developed after the 1987 suicide of Rosenberg, and the subsequent death of her , with whom she'd developed a close friendship, of . Additionally, Rivers' relationship with her daughter had been strained at the time; according to Rivers, the confluence of events resulted in her contemplating suicide in her California home. "I got the gun out, the whole thing," she recalled in a 2008 interview. "And [then] my dog came and sat in my lap... and that was a big turning point in my life. My little, stupid dog, a , who I adored, literally came and sat on my lap....and literally, he saved my life. Truly saved my life." Rivers eventually recovered with counseling and the support of her family.
As a philanthropist, Rivers supported causes including activism, and in May 1985, she appeared along with at a benefit for the new in New York City, where tickets at the Shubert Theatre sold for as much as 0. She supported the and , which delivers meals to HIV/AIDS patients in New York City. In 2008, she was commended by the City of San Diego, California for her philanthropic work regarding HIV/AIDS, where the HIV/AIDS community called her their "Joan of Arc."
Additionally, she served as an Honorary Director of the . She also supported , a non-profit organization which provides to blind people. She donated to Jewish charities, animal welfare efforts, and suicide prevention causes. Among the other non-profit organizations she helped were , , and the .
Rivers was open about her multiple cosmetic surgeries and was a patient of plastic surgeon , beginning in 1983. She had her nose thinned while still at college; her next procedure, an , was performed in 1965 (when she was in her thirties) as an attempt to further her career. When promoting her book, Men Are Stupid ... And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery, described by as "a detailed and mostly serious guide to eye lifts, tummy tucks and other forms of ", she quipped: "I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to ."
On August 28, 2014, Rivers experienced serious complications and stopped breathing while undergoing what was scheduled as a minor throat procedure at an outpatient clinic in . Resuscitated an hour later, Rivers was transferred to and later put on . She died on September 4 at in New York, having never awoken from a medically . The said she died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, and the details of her surgery would be investigated by officials. Rivers was 81 years old.
After nearly two months of investigations, federal officials said on November 10 that the clinic made a number of mistakes both before and during the procedure. Among those were the clinic's failure to respond to Rivers' deteriorating vital signs, including a severe drop in her blood pressure, possibly administering an incorrect anesthetic dosage, performing a surgical procedure without her consent, and other medical-clinic irregularities.
On September 7, after Rivers' cremation, a private memorial service took place at in Manhattan. The service was attended by an estimated 1,500 people. The guest list included Rivers' many celebrity friends, public figures and the singing old show tunes. Talk show host , delivering the eulogy, described Rivers as "brassy in public [and] classy in private ... a troublemaker, trail blazer, pioneer for comics everywhere, ... [who] fought the stereotypes that women can't be funny." Daughter Melissa read a comedic note to her mother as part of her eulogy.
On January 26, 2015, Melissa Rivers filed a malpractice lawsuit against the clinic and doctors performing surgery on her mother. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount in May 2016, with the doctors accepting responsibility.
Upon Rivers' death, friends, fans, family and celebrities paid tribute. Numerous comedians recognized Rivers' influence on their career, including , who considered Rivers her "mentor", noting, "She brought a fearlessness and a brand of humor into our homes that we really need." felt "she was the hippest comedian from the time she started to the day she died". Describing her as a force in comedy, he added, "No man ever said, 'Yeah, I want to go on after Joan.' No, Joan Rivers closed the show every night." Other comedians recalled working with her on stage and television decades earlier: stand-up performer said "working with her and enjoying the fun times of life with her was special". calls Rivers "the poster child for the ".
Numerous talk show hosts, including , , , , , , , and , paid tribute to Rivers, often including video clips of her appearances. Letterman called her a "real pioneer for other women looking for careers in stand-up comedy. And talk about guts." discussed Rivers' legacy with fellow comedian and lifelong friend on , while recalled Rivers' appearance on , saying, "I have not sat next to anyone who told more jokes faster than Joan Rivers did when she was here." And on , host noted her contributions: "There are very few people in my business that you can say are, or were, actually groundbreaking talents. Joan Rivers was one of them." Radio host , who delivered her funeral eulogy, devoted an entire one-hour show to Rivers. Stern began the eulogy with, "Joan Rivers had a dry vagina," a joke that was intended, and reportedly received by guests, as a humorous honoring of Rivers' comedic sensibility. paid tribute to Rivers while hosting . Long-time friend, comedian, fellow talk show hostess and television personality tweeted: "My friend Joan Rivers has passed away," She said: "Once again to quote Billy Crystal ... There are no words." Comedian , speaking at the 2014 magazine "Woman of the Year Awards" ceremony in , paid tribute to Rivers, calling her the bravest female comedian.
Political figures giving tribute to Rivers included former first lady , who had helped Rivers after the death of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg. As a friend of , Rivers was one of only four Americans invited to his wedding to in 2005. Upon hearing of her death, they said she was "utterly irreplaceable". Israel's Prime Minister noted that besides bringing laughter to millions of people around the world, she was "proud of her Jewish heritage". Future U.S. President attended her funeral and that she "was an amazing woman and a great friend". After her mother's death, Melissa Rivers said she received a letter from President in which he wrote, despite being a frequent target of Rivers' jokes: "not only did she make us laugh, she made us think".
In a subsequent interview with The Huffington Post, Melissa Rivers cited 's public tribute to her mother as her favorite, adding: "I loved seeing that outpouring from these women, especially the ones who took the heat on , because it meant they got it. It meant they loved her. It meant they saw the humor."
Rivers only influence was .
Mainstream comedians and contemporaries who have claimed Rivers as an influence include , , , , , , , , , , , , and . She is considered by many critics and journalists a pioneer of women in comedy.
All authored and read by Joan Rivers, except where noted.Year Title Notes Publisher Reference Formats 1986 Enter Talking with Dove Entertainment / Cassette, Digital 1987 Murder on the Aisle: The 1987 Mystery Writers of America Anthology Narrator only 1991 Still Talking with Richard Meryman 1993 Carnival of the Animals Narrator only 1998 The Emperor's New Clothes: An All-Star Illustrated Retelling of the Classic Fairy Tale Audioworks 2008 Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery with Valerie Frankel Audio CD, Digital 2009 New Treasury of Great Humorists Narrator only Phoenix Books Digital Murder in America 2012 I Hate Everyone...Starting with Me Unabridged CD, Digital 2014 Diary of a Mad Diva Grammy winner 2015 The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation Read by author 2016 Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers Author Leslie Bennetts, Read by Erin Bennett