Joan Rivers (1933-2014), as if she needs explaining, was the raspy voiced comic who skewered America’s obsessions with celebrities, flab, face-lifts, fake hair and the other blemishes of our neurotic lives, especially her own, in five decades of caustic quips that took her from nightclubs to television to international stardom.
Rivers was one of the first successful female stand-up comics in a tradition that had been almost exclusively the province of men. She was opened the door for and inspired tough-talking female comics like Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin.
She won an Emmy Award, a Grammy, and was nominated for a Tony Award.
There is a terrific and very moving documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work that came out in 2010. It is streaming currently on Netflix.
Before she left us, Rivers had 50 years in showbiz, appeared on hundreds of television shows, and more than a dozen films, did more than a thousand club dates, and published 12 books, all bestsellers.
Rivers embraced the LGBTQ community, and supported HIV/AIDS activism early in the plague. In 1985, she performed at a Comic Relief benefit for the new AIDS Medical Foundation in NYC, where tickets at the Shubert Theatre event sold for $1000. She was on the board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and God’s Love We Deliver, where she actually delivered meals to people with HIV. The HIV/AIDS community called her their “Joan of Arc”.
Additionally, she served as Director of the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, and supported Guide Dogs For The Blind, the non-profit organization that provides guide dogs to blind people. She donated to various Jewish charities, animal welfare groups, Rosie’s Theater Kids, Habitat For Humanity, and Human Rights Campaign.