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 and sharply acerbic, especially towards celebrities and politicians. She is considered a pioneer of women in comedy by many critics.
Rivers started her career in comedy clubs in Greenwich Village alongside her peers George Carlin, Woody Allen, and Richard Pryor. She then rose to prominence in 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show. Hosted by her mentor, Johnny Carson, the show established Rivers’ comedic style. In 1986, with her own rival program, The Late Show with Joan Rivers, Rivers became the first woman to host a late night network television talk show. She subsequently hosted The Joan Rivers Show (1989–1993), winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host. From the mid-1990s, she became known for her comedic red carpet awards show celebrity interviews. Rivers co-hosted the E! celebrity fashion show Fashion Police from 2010 to 2014 and starred in the reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? (2011–2014) with daughter Melissa Rivers. She was the subject of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010).
In addition to marketing a line of jewelry and apparel on the QVC 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 Grammy Award for her album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?; and was nominated in 1994 for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance of the title role in Sally Marr … and Her Escorts. In 2009, Rivers competed alongside her daughter Melissa on the second season of The Celebrity Apprentice, ultimately winning the season. In 2015, Rivers posthumously received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for her book, Diary of a Mad Diva.
In 1968, The New York Times television critic Jack Gould called Rivers “quite possibly the most intuitively funny woman alive”] In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked her sixth 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.
On August 28, 2014, Rivers experienced serious complications and stopped breathing while undergoing what was scheduled to be a minor throat procedure at an outpatient clinic in Yorkville, Manhattan. Resuscitated an hour later, Rivers was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and later put on life support.] She died on September 4 at Mount Sinai, never having awakened from a medically induced coma. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said that she died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.
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.
America is a Great Country in which to live.