Joan Rivers, one of the most famous names in comedy, has passed away at age 81. The outrageous, unapologetic and controversial comedian remained culturally relevant until her death.
Rivers worked consistently in television, film and on stage for half a century — up until just a week ago, when she was admitted to the hospital after undergoing a medical procedure at a doctor’s office. After she lost consciousness, Rivers was placed in a medically-induced coma.
After getting her start at comedy clubs in the late 1950s, Rivers began breaking down barriers for female comedians in the the late 1960s, when she became a favored performer on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” She served as a model for future generations of brash female comedians who tackled difficult subject matter such as Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham.
In 1986, Rivers received a $10 million contract to host Fox’s “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” but that career peak soon led to some of the roughest times of her life. Shunned by Johnny Carson who viewed her show as a betrayal, Rivers was eventually dropped by Fox due to poor ratings. Her husband Edgar Rosenberg, who was also her manager, committed suicide in 1987.
Yet, Rivers bounced back again and again. She went on to co-star with her daughter Melissa in a reality TV show, host E!’s “Fashion Police” and she even won the Daytime Emmy for best talk show host for “The Joan Rivers Show” in 1990.
There was seemingly nothing Rivers couldn’t – and didn’t – tackle. She started her own jewelry line. She even starred on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony for her performance as Lenny Bruce’s mother in “Sally Marr…And Her Escorts.” She wrote many books, starred in a handful of movies and performed relentlessly, never slowing down.
No subject was taboo for Rivers, including her husband Edgar’s suicide. Even when her comments drew controversy, she never apologized. The 2010 documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” showcased Rivers’ tireless work ethic and dedication to her craft, while for decades, her skewering of fashion mistakes made her a red carpet icon. She also made a memorable guest appearance as herself in the FX series “Louie,” telling Louis CK that working in comedy is “a calling.”