A Few Words About a Legend: Joan Rivers

SiriusXM's Unmasked Special With Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers passed away today at the age of 81 after suffering cardiac and respiratory arrest last Thursday during an outpatient procedure.  The news was devastating to fans all over the world who spent the last week praying and hoping Joan would recover.

Joan was a legend in many worlds, to many people, and for many reasons.  She was an icon in the fashion world, the celebrity world, the gay community and of course in comedy.   She was an inspiration to women and men and you will never be able to count the people who owe a debt of gratitude to the paths Joan created.  She was strong and unflinching, and in an industry where fearlessness is a common trait, she out-ranked everyone around her when it came to being tough.  And of course she was one of the funniest people on the planet – a true legend in the business.

Joan outworked everyone around her.  She never wanted to look back and recount her past achievements, she was only concerned to look ahead and plan what would come next.  And at 81 it seemed like she had no plans to slow down.   This year alone, her credits included a new bestselling book, her 12th bestseller,  “Diary of a Mad Diva”.  She was also the ringleader of E!’s “Fashion Police” where she continued to be the best player in a genre of entertainment she practically invented.  She had an interview show, “In Bed with Joan” where she invited various celebrities to get in bed with her and talk shop.  Her reality series “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best” was in its fourth season, and going strong shocking viewers worldwide, and she still toured, performing stand up, writing new jokes, and doing press tours to support her book and other projects.

This was also the year she made her triumphant return to The Tonight Show, after a 26 year absence, when Jimmy Fallon took the helm back in March.  She talked about what it was like to be back on NBC’s Late Night in a recent interview with Ron Bennington, taped this past July during her book tour.

A few months ago we declared Joan to be the bravest person in comedy, because of her brutal honesty and refusal to apologize to those she offended.   She took on all comers and was never afraid to take heat, whether she was critiquing someone’s choice of shoes and dress, addressing the most important political issues of our time, or taking on the country’s largest most powerful corporation.   And when inevitable demands have been made seeking apologies from Joan, she has always stood her ground.  In 2014 alone, an astonishing list of celebs sought apologies– (Jeremy Clarkson, Shaquille O’Neal, Boomer Esiason, Lena Dunham, Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler, The Morning Joe Show, Al Roker, Imus and Gabourey Sidibe to name a few)– and not only was no apology forthcoming, but Joan would usually use the opportunity to tag her original straight talk with some more “truth”.    

It would take a lot more than an article to sum up why Joan has been and continues to be such an inspiration;  it would take 12 books, just to get started.  Fortunately for all of us, there is no shortage of material to look to,  to get a sense of Joan’s history and career.  Start with the aforementioned documentary, “Joan Rivers a Piece of Work” and then listen to her episode of Unmasked. That would be a good start.

Her only daughter, Melissa Rivers, released a statement today about her mother’s death.  In her statement, she said that her mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people to laugh.  Fortunately for us she has left behind a lifetime of great material to turn to.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.

Cooper and I 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.”

— Melissa Rivers

Joan Rivers, 1933-2014


Read more comedy news, stories, interviews with comedians, videos and comedy clips on our home page. Get more comedy news. Watch more viral videos. Read more interviews with the best comics in the business.