Joan Rivers 1933-2014

Sharp US comedienne and actress dies aged 81

Joan Rivers 1933-2014

by James White |
Published on


She drew ire with her razor-sharp wit, but she was a groundbreaking, controversial and outspoken comedienne, a true one of a kind. Joan Rivers has died at the age of 81.

Though far better known for her comedy and TV work than any contribution to cinema (yes, despite providing the voice of Dot Matrix in Spaceballs), Rivers co-wrote and directed Rabbit Test in 1978, which helped give Billy Crystal his film break and was a considerable achievement for a female filmmaker in the boys’ club of 1970s Hollywood.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933 to Russian immigrants Meyer and Beatrice Molinsky, Joan Alexander Molinsky attended Barnard College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature. Yet it was her comedy that really caught attention, landed her regular guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which in turn led to her status as the show’s frequent fill-in host, a stint that ended abruptly when she launched a competing program for Fox.

She went on to host other chat shows, winning awards for The Joan Rivers Show and, more recently, becoming a scathing fixture on red carpets where she critiqued fashion and egos with withering power. She wasn’t always viewed favourably, coming under fire for her sarcastic takedowns of various celebrities and jokes in questionable taste about subjects including the Holocaust, but she always ploughed merrily on regardless. And she had a softer, private side, with friends remembering her as a graceful and kind figure. A prolific author, she wrote several memoirs (including a mock version) and won a Grammy nomination for her comedy album ‘What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?’

“My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” her daughter Melissa said a statement following Rivers’ death from complications during surgery. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

In that spirit, then, one last Rivers barb, directed inwards, which is how she’d want to be remembered: “I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”

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