Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers

Date of birth: 08-06-1933
Joan Rivers was born in Brooklyn, to immigrant Russian Jews, grew up in suburban New York and educated at Connecticut College and Barnard College, Manhattan.

She started comedy in the Fifties, and spent a decade ‘enduring humiliation and privation playing tawdry clubs, Borscht Belt hotels, and Greenwich Village cabarets’.

But her persistence paid off, and in 1965 got her first TV break when she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Within three years she was given her own daytime talk show – That Show With Joan Rivers – and by the Eighties she was the permanent guest host on the Tonight Show whenever Carson was away.

In 1986 she had an ill-fated six-part chat show for the BBC, taking its title from her 'Can we talk?' catchphrase, a registered trademark in the US. Today the show is mainly remembered for Peter Cook being wasted as her sidekick.

That same year, she was given her own late-night chat show on the new Fox network – but Carson was so upset by what he saw as her betrayal after a 20-year friendship that he banned her from his show forever. The two never reconciled before Carson’s death 2005.

That was followed by another self-titled daytime talk show, which ran from 1989 until 1994, and won her an Emmy award.

In 1987, she suffered personal tragedy when her husband Edgar Rosenberg, a British TV producer, killed himself, devastating Rivers, who developed bulimia and contemplated her own suicide. But she eventually turned the tragedy into typically uncompromising and uncomfortable comedy.

She took a diversion from comedy in 1990, launching her own line of jewellery for the QVC home shopping channel. It was widely seen as a tacky move, but it was certainly a lucrative one – achieving more than $500million of sales.

Rivers was also known for her bitchy commentaries about celebrity fashions on the red carpet before glitzy showbiz events. She worked with her daughter Melissa for the E! channel from 1996 to 2004, then moving to the TV Guide channel for two years. In Shrek 2, she cameoed as an animated version of herself, parodying this role.

Rivers is also known for her bitchy commentaries about celebrity fashions on the red carpet before glitzy showbiz events, latterly with her daughter Melissa. In Shrek 2, she cameoed as an animated version of herself, parodying this role.

Rivers is an unashamed advocate of plastic surgery, which became a staple of her self-deprecating stand-up. She once joked: 'I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.'

And in 2010 she was the subject of a revealing documentary of her life, A Piece Of Work.

She died in a New York hospital in September 2014 after she went into cardiac arrested and stopped breathing during a routine medical procedure on her throat.

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