As I am posting this obituary…I am still in disbelief. Joan Rivers was the last standing guard of pioneer female comedians. If it were not for her, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, Lily Tomlin, Phyliss Diller and countless others who are no longer with us. We may not have been able to enjoy the comedy of Rosanne, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Mo’Nique, Sommore, Sheryl Underwood and the list goes on and on and on.
Rivers, known for her catchphrase “Can we talk?,” was a pioneering confessional,self-depricating comedian known for joking about her personal life, marriage and plastic surgery on TV and in clubs for more than five decades.
Whatever gig Rivers was doing whether it was as a permanent replacement host on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” co-host of “Fashion Police,” her syndicated talk shows, Vegas engagements, bestselling books, commentating on awards’ show arrivals along with daughter Melissa or as a QVC saleswoman — Rivers was never too far out of the spotlight.
Her ability to ad-lib effortlessly in any situation endeared her to generations of television viewers, but at the time gained her many a critic. Joan Rivers was never afraid of sounding politically incorrect and repeatedly stirred up controversy by doing so. This summer alone, she first ruffled feathers when she called First Lady Michelle Obama “transgender”, implied that President Barack Obama is gay and who can forget walking out on CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield, but not without proclaiming that Whitfield “was not the person to interview anyone about comedy.”
Her life was also marked by the tragedy of her husband and manager Edgar Rosenberg’s suicide, which was played out in the media, especially since her relationship with Rosenberg had been so much a part of her comedy routine.
She wrote, directed and appeared in “Rabbit Test,” a film about a man (Billy Crystal) who becomes pregnant. Although Rabbit Test wasn’t blockbuster River would later make appearances in films such as “Spaceballs” and “Serial Mom” and did voice-over work in film such as “Look Who’s Talking” and “Shrek 2.” She cameo’d in 2011’s “The Smurfs.”
In 2008, “Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress,”, played the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and London’s Leicester Square Theater, but critical response in London sunk the show’s prospects for Broadway.
Her many books include the autobiographical “Enter Talking,” “Still Talking,” “Bouncing Back” and “Don’t Count the Candles: Just Keep the Fire Lit!” and her most recent book “Diary of A Mad Diva”.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include a grandson, Cooper. Her sister Barbara died in 2013 at 82.
Joan Rivers was one of a kind. She never apologized for ANYTHING, which made her (in my opinion) refreshing in a world where people are apologizing every two seconds for who they are and/or what they supposedly stand for.
I owe Joan Rivers a huge debt. My career in commercials started largely in part to her. You see, the very first commercial I ever did was for The Joan Rivers Talk Show with Joan in the late 80’s. That day I witnessed a Joan Rivers that was kind, funny and a lovely human being.
RIP Joan…Hope you, Johnny and Edgar are able to catch up and have a few more laughs…
Here is the trailer from a documentary chronicling the life of this groundbreaking woman called a A Piece of Work. It can be seen on NETFLIX.