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Joan Rivers

Performer, Writer
( b. Jun 08, 1933 Brooklyn, New York, USA - d. Sep 04, 2014 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Also known as: Joan Alexandra Molinsky [Birthname]
Relations: Wife of Edgar Rosenberg (1965 - 1987) his death

Joan Rivers was one of America's first successful female stand-up comics in an aggressive vein that had been almost exclusively the province of men like Don Rickles and Lenny Bruce. Vivacious even as a nipped-and-tucked octogenarian, flitting from coast to coast and stage to studio in a whirl of live and taped shows, publicity stunts and cosmetic surgery appointments, Ms. Rivers evolved from a sassy, self-deprecating performer early in her career into a coarser assassin, slashing at celebrities and others with a rapier wit that some critics called comic genius in the bloodletting vein of Lenny Bruce. Others called it downright vicious. But if she turned the scowlers off, she left millions in stitches.

She would take the stage in a demure black sheath and ladylike pearls, a tiny bouffant blonde with a genteel air of sorority decorum. Then she'd stick her finger down her throat and regurgitate the dirt on the rich and famous, the stream-of-conscious take on national heroes and sacrosanct cultural idols.

A contemporary of Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, she began doing stand-up routines in nightclubs in the late 1950s, and broke through as a guest on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson in 1965. Over the next two decades she became a regular guest host on the Carson show, a Las Vegas headliner and a television star. In 1986, she hit the big time with a $10 million contract as host of the new Fox network's weeknight entry, "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers," competing directly with her old benefactor.

Then came a series of devastating professional and personal setbacks. She was shunned by Carson, who said that she had never informed him of the Fox offer and that he apparently considered her disloyal for accepting it. After less than a year on the air, she was fired by Fox when her ratings slumped. Bookings dried up, and her career seemed to be on the rocks. But, struggling with grief, Ms. Rivers traveled for a time, then fell back on the resilience of laughter and revived her comedy career.

She was born in Brooklyn to Meyer and Beatrice Grushman Molinsky, immigrants from Russia. Dreaming of an acting career, she worked in the publicity department at Lord & Taylor and was a fashion coordinator for the Bond clothing stores. Her parents refused to support her acting ambitions, and she struggled for years in office temp jobs while taking small parts off Off Broadway. She became a stand-up comic to support her acting, working in grimy cafes and small clubs, and was fired often. But she liked comedy and was good at it. She developed fresh routines based on her experiences and observations, changed her name to Rivers and got a few breaks.

In the early '60s, she joined the Chicago-based Second City troupe, whose improvisational scenes, she said, reinforced her confidence, although she preferred stand-up solos to its ensemble work. She had many gigs in Greenwich Village and performed with a musical-comedy trio, Jim, Jake and Joan. She also wrote for CBS's "Candid Camera," and in 1966 began a series of appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

After being dismissed by Fox, she reinvented herself as a writer, producer and entrepreneur. In the late 1980s and early '90s, she starred on the daytime television talk program, "The Joan Rivers Show," and won the Emmy for best talk show host in 1990. She was also nominated for Drama Desk and Tony awards for her performance in the title role of Sally Marr ... and Her Escorts, a 1994 Broadway play based on the life of Lenny Bruce's mother.

A documentary, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," was released in 2010. By then she had weathered 50 years in show business, appeared in thousands of television programs, more than a dozen films and countless nightclubs; written 11 books; raised millions for AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other charities; and amassed a fortune estimated at $290 million.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
Sally Marr...and her escorts
[Play, Original]
  • Starring: Joan Rivers [Sally Marr]
  • Written by Joan Rivers
May 05, 1994 - Jun 19, 1994
Broadway Bound
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Joan Rivers
        Kate - Replacement
Dec 04, 1986 - Sep 25, 1988
Fun City
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Joan Rivers [Jill Fairchild]
  • Written by Joan Rivers
Jan 02, 1972 - Jan 08, 1972
1994 Tony Award® Best Actress in a Play
Sally Marr...and her escorts [nominee]
Starring: Joan Rivers
1994 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play
Sally Marr...and her escorts [nominee]
Starring: Joan Rivers
Find out where Joan Rivers and are credited together