Joan Rivers, Comedy Icon And Straight Ally, Dead At 81; Here’s Why She Was Awesome

British Academy Television Awards - ArrivalsJoan Rivers, a comedian who could truly be described as legendary and a longtime ally to the LGBT community, has died at age 81 in New York’s Mt. Sinai hospital, reports Variety.

“She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends,” her daughter, Melissa, said in a statement. “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is
difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

Melissa added that she and her son, Cooper, “have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

Rivers had been admitted to the hospital after she stopped breathing during a procedure on her vocal cords at a New York outpatient clinic that resulted in heart and lung failure, and was placed in a medically-induced coma to assess her condition.

Probably best-known to contemporary audiences for her appearances fearlessly critiquing celebrity fashion on the red carpet, as host of TV’s Fashion Police and as the star of her own reality series Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, the comic had a long and nearly unparalleled career. In fact, Rivers maintained one of the longest active careers in show business by her uncanny ability to adapt with the times.

Born Joan Molinsky in 1933, Rivers rose to prominence in the late-1950s-early 1960s Greenwich Village scene that launched many notable careers. She made an early stage appearance as a lovelorn lesbian opposite another show business legend also who never downplayed her ethnicity, Barbra Streisand in a 1959 play called Driftwood. Rivers is quoted as saying, “It was my idea,” Rivers said. “It was a man’s part and they couldn’t cast it, so I said ‘I’ll do it! Make them lesbians!’ and Barbra was really thrilled.” She added, “Let me tell you, Barbra is a great kisser, but no tongue…”

Rivers made her greatest mark as a quick-witted guest on game shows such as The Hollywood Squares and talk shows, particularly as guest host on The Tonight Show for vacationing Johnny Carson, who became a mentor to the comic. She was such as hit subbing for Carson that in 1986 Fox eventually offered her a show of her own, which created a riff in the relationship between Rivers and Carson that never mended before his death in 2005. The talk show was considered a disaster at the time and Joan’s husband Edgar, who was a producer on the show and had often been used as fodder for her stand-up material,  committed suicide in 1987, which Joan later blamed on the humiliation he suffered at Fox.

Rivers’ career rebounded and she remained a household name for her signature brand of no-holds-barred comedy. She never shied away from making cracks about her own penchant for plastic surgery, and even guest starred on the TV series Nip/Tuck. At an age when many would enjoy retirement, Rivers tirelessly kept her self in front of cameras and on red carpets, where she became known to a new generation of TV viewers who’d never heard of Johnny Carson.

In one of her last interviews Rivers shared what might have been her motto: “Life is very tough and if you can make a joke to make something easier and funny, do it.”

Joan, you’ll be missed, but your legacy will live on for a long time.

Celebrate the long and singular career of Rivers by watching the videos below.

In 1978 Rivers tried her hand at directing and delivered Rabbit Test, a comedy about the world’s first pregnant man (Billy Crystal) that bore comparison to the early works of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks.

While hosting The Tonight Show, Joan worked her popular catchphrase “Can we talk?” into her monologues as frequently as possible.

In 1986 during one of her final appearances on The Tonight Show, Rivers riffed on a variety of topics with Carson including Madonna’s recent wedding to Sean Penn.

Rivers dipped her toes in the reality competition series waters with an appearance on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.

 In 2009, Kathy Griffin hosted the Comedy Central roast of her pal.

Earlier this year while promoting her book, Rivers took umbrage at a CNN interviewer who called her “mean” and stormed off camera.

In 2010, Rivers allowed cameras to follow her around for an unvarnished look into her private world. Watch the trailer for Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work below.

As terrific as Joan was in front of cameras, there was nothing like seeing her live. In 2009, she showed why she was one of the greats during this routine at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre.

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  • JJ24


  • ED49

    Joan Rivers had more balls than anyone on this website together.

  • hyhybt

    When I get home I’m digging up a tape of 80’s Hollywood Squares.

  • rickhfx

    She was a gutsy broad and will be missed. Condolences to her family.

  • tricky ricky

    I’ve been watching her all of my life. I’ll miss her

  • ED49


  • DDstar1me

    That was motha ok motha. She was the motha of telling it like it is. The truth!

    I miss her already. Fashion police will never be the same. R.I.P Motha rivers

  • mz.sam

    Iconic comic’s famous line: “Oh, GROW UP!” RIP.

  • DickieJohnson

    “We’re all [email protected], or K*kes, or Ch1nks, or N****rs, or whatever. We should be grateful we live in America, and Just. Calm. Down.” Paraphrased, of course. Oh, Joan, we’re gonna miss you! Deepest sympathies to her family!!!

  • Kieran

    To the sensitive queerty censor who can’t take a joke. If Joan were here she would have told you to “Grow up!”. Joan believed at laughing at life….even the sad parts.

  • vive

    I loved her comedy and personality. She’ll be missed.

    And I hope the Queerty staff feel bad now about all the articles where they b*tched about her.

  • SteveDenver

    Melissa’s note is eloquent and touching.
    The radio station 24/7 Comedy (also streaming online) has been playing a lot of her earliest bits, and she was amazing and scary in the 60s. Thanks for all the laughs!

  • NG22

    She was a mess, but she was our mess. Can’t believe she’s gone.

  • Daveliam

    She was an absolutely brilliant comedian. Just fucking “take no prisoners” hilarious. I’m genuinely saddened by this loss. Sometimes when a celebrity passes, people say that they are saddened but really don’t mean it, but I am honestly going to miss this woman.

  • Roan

    I had the pleasure of seeing her live, from front row center. She threw the potted ferns on the stage at us because she wanted us to go home with something. Thank you, Joan for making me laugh.

  • Franco C.

    There’s no one to take her place. There will never be another person like her. And for that, I’m profoundly sad.


    Joan was recently in Huntington NY. She had a book signing and then did shows at a real nice small theatre in town. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting her at the book signing, I was there with my BF. We approached Joan and the first words out of her mouth were “What a freaking cute couple two are”. Which caused my BF to freak out because we hadn’t said a word to her. Sensing his puzzlement Joan advised “I have better Gaydar than most Gays” :p

    We went to the show that night and Joan seeing us again in the theatre said “Look, I have a cute Gay couple stalking me”……To have an 81 year old icon remember us and give us a shout out was an incredible memory we will both treasure forever………

    Joan was an outspoken unwavering supporter of Gays waaaaaay before it was fashionable to declare your support for Gays…..She never caved to political correctness. If she could mine a joke out of anything, damm well you knew she would……

    And what makes this whole tragedy such a heart breaker is that she should still should be with us. Numerous sources have stated that an 81 year old person should never had the procedure done on an outpatient basis. A greedy doctor most likely advise her it “was perfectly safe” rather than having to share the revenue with a hospital……..

    I feel so damm sad, like I lost another Grandmother. Sounds insane to say an 81 year old woman is gone too soon, but in this case it is sorrowfully true…….

    Rest In Peace, the Eternal Queen of Comedy

  • MarionPaige

    somewhere along the line, comedy went from being about making people laugh with humor to making people gasp with raunchy attacks on things generally considered off limits. I remember when Jackie Onassis was still alive, Joan Rivers came out and announced that Onassis was getting married again for the third time – that she was marrying Tito. The Dictator Tito was in the news at the time for being on this death bed. It is “unfortunate” that a lot of “kids” today may not even remember comedy as being something that was actually about humor.

    For all of any “good” that Joan Rivers may have done, Television and Comedy is better off without her. I’m reminded of a comment in the news about Regis Philbin that said “What’s Next For Regis Philbin?”. Well, what should be next for all of the fucking 80+ year old on tv who don’t have the decency to go the fuck away?

    In True Joan Rivers Form, I would like to be first to announce That Rivers is in talks with the showrunner for The Walking Dead for a recurring role in Season 5.


  • MarionPaige

    A lot of you may be too young to remember a comedian name Tottie Fields. Fields was advised by a lot of doctors to not have surgery because of a blood problem she had but, Fields sought out a doctor who would do face lift surgery on her. The surgery led to the amputation of Field’s leg and her eventual death. Phyllis Diller said on The View that Tottie Fields and Joan Rivers hated each other. There is actually a video on youtube about plastic surgery with Rivers in which she says that she’d rather die getting surgery than ….

  • Kangol

    I was a huge fan and will miss her, though I hated her comments about First Lady Michelle Obama and Palestinian children.

  • Miss Understood

    @MarionPaige: Your decision to air your thoughts today, on this thread, is in far worse taste than Joan’s jokes. You’re a humorless hypocrite.

  • lykeitiz

    @MarionPaige: So, in a post where you declare Joan Rivers inappropriate and you say TV will be better off without her, you end it with ripping off her format to make a joke of your own about her.

    Oh yeah, she was horrible, but when YOU do her schtick, you’re hilarious!

    There’s a reason she was “Joan Rivers” and there’s a reason you’re pathetically rambling on & on about her……..troll.

  • lykeitiz

    @PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS: What a great story you’ve got! And yes, even at 81 years old, it does feel like we’ve lost her too soon!

  • MarionPaige

    A Black Man, A White Man and Joan Rivers walk into a bar. The Black Man says: “Bitch, You Dead!”.

    What Did Joan Rivers do for sex when she was alive? The Same Thing she does for sex now.

    How many Palestinians can dance on Joan Rivers’ grave at the same time? We’ll soon find out, won’t we?

    Michelle Obama turned to Barack and said: “It looks like a power failure was responsible for Joan Rivers going into cardiac arrest during that procedure”. Barack Obama said: “Yeah, I know. I’m the President”. And then they both laughed and threw darts into Rivers’ comatose body.

    Why did God apologize for Joan Rivers’ death? Because, he thought that ugly old Bitch having the throat procedure was Barbara Walters.

  • MarionPaige

    They say Joan Rivers left all of her assets to her beloved Melissa. Yeah, her two year old Yorkshire Terrier Melissa.

    What did Yorkville Endoscopy find in Joan Rivers’ throat? An Old Sock Edgar Rosenberg had stuffed in there back in 1987.

    “But serious folks I really like Joan Rivers’ humor”, God said, right before pinching the tube feeding oxygen to Rivers’ brain.

    Melissa Rivers asked Doctors why Joan Rivers was unresponsive. The Doctors said: “Because she’s brain dead”. Melissa then said: “I know that, but, why is she unresponsive?”

  • NJjoe

    @ MarionPaige: You’re a pathetic human being.

    God Bless You Joan. I will miss you dearly. Thanks for all the laughs and paving the way for female comics. With much Love, Joe.

  • Polaro

    I did hear that Joan Rivers woke up briefly before passing and demanded a refund on the failed endoscopy procedure. When she was told she would never be able to collect a refund, she said, “Over my dead body!” Too soon? Oh, grow up!

  • MarionPaige

    It turns out Joan Rivers was working on a new book. Yeah, it was titled: “How I Survived A Throat Procedure And Got My Old Voice Back.”

    Why did Death settle for Joan Rivers? How else do you think Cindy Adams stays alive?

    Cathy Griffin says Joan Rivers knew she was going to die. Yeah, that’s why Rivers was already embalmed.

    The White House is now engaged in the biggest cover up since Watergate. It turns out some kid photographed Michelle Obama leaving Yorkville Endoscopy last week.

  • lykeitiz

    @MarionPaige: See my above post to you and repeat it over & over. You can also throw in something about you being a sick anti-Semite. Oh, and you can also throw in another joke about how a dead Joan Rivers still tells funnier jokes than a sad MarionPaige.

  • MarionPaige

    On my way to work today, I pushed this old white bitch in front of a Number 6 train. And,then, when I got to work, I realized … that couldn’t have been Joan Rivers.

    Joan Rivers was in talks to star in a remake of “I Dream of Jeanie” in which Rivers would wear that nearly nude costume Barbara Eden wore. The main sponsor for the show was Dupont.

    An investigation into the manufacturer of the oxygen face mask used on Rivers during her throat procedure was cleared of any wrongdoing. It turns out the fatal oxygen leak was caused by all of the filler in Rivers’ face.

  • Blackceo

    Shame. She was still so full of life and was still working her ass off. She’s made some comments over the past few years I thought went a little too far, but that was Joan. She was unapologetic and had such resilience in dealing with personal and professional setbacks. She was able to make fun of herself and should be appreciated for her pioneering efforts.

    Also shows that there is no such thing as a “simple medical procedure” when you are 81. I don’t know what kind of underlying conditions she may have had, but if she had to go under anaesthesia that’s always a risk, especially at that age.

  • Aromaeus

    Queerty has a real problem with white tears. Whenever I leave a comment slighting white people it gets deleted but ya’ll let the ones about racial minorities just slide. The fact is this old bag was a horrible person in life and anyone having the ounce bit of sympathy over her death is just as bad.

  • MarionPaige

    it is so hard to keep a straight face with you see these somber “memorials” to Joan Rivers and behind the commenter is this photograph of that horrible old bitch looking like somebody stuffed a whole lot of random shit in her face. It’s like Mary Tyler Moore trying to keep a straight face at the funeral for the guy dressed like a peanut who was mauled by an elephant.

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