Comedian Joan Rivers carved out her own niche in the entertainment industry: she was a talker. In fact, she preempted most of her schtick with her trademark line "Can we talk?" A constant stream of one-liners, Rivers was instantly recognizable by her raspy voice, upturned nose, bob haircut, fashion sense, quick wit, and presence as commentator at high-profile celebrity awards ceremonies. She also conducted fashion reviews on the sensational celebrity "news" channel E! Entertainment Television.
In 1990, Rivers won an Emmy for her daytime television talk show, The Joan Rivers Show. She entertained her audiences with her conversational-style standup comedy repertoire between guests and with "Gossip gossip gossip!" Rivers' gift of gab was featured in comedy clubs around the nation, and her show played Vegas regularly.
During the early '80s, Rivers often filled in as guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. By 1986, she had her own late-night talk show, but it was canceled the following season. That same year, her husband, manager/producer Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide. Years later, after the success of her new show, her highly publicized real-life drama was made into a made-for-TV movie (Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story), recounting what Rivers and her daughter went through after her husband's death.
Joan Rivers did attempt to make a sitcom, direct a movie (Rabbit Test, starring Billy Crystal), and a Broadway show, none of which took off, despite her popularity. But she constantly appeared on television and in movies in bit parts and supporting roles. She had several hit comedy albums and books, a best-seller (Enter Talking) among them.
Before she critiqued celebrity wardrobes at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Emmy Awards, Rivers worked as a fashion consultant at Bond Clothing Stores. She was also a publicist for Lord & Taylor. She started traveling the nightclub circuit and after seven years of struggling, got a shot to appear on The Tonight Show. From there, Rivers was catapulted into a lifetime career that lasted into the 21st century.
Joan Rivers' parents were Russian immigrants. She attended Connecticut College for Women and graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in English and anthropology. She was married twice and engaged a third time. She had one daughter, Melissa, who often accompanied her when commentating. Joan Rivers died in New York City in September 2014, following surgery on her vocal cords. She was 81 years old. ~ Sandy Lawson