Legendary Comedian & 'Spaceballs' Star Joan Rivers Has Died at 81
by Ethan Anderton
September 4, 2014
Not too long after the shocking death of comedian Robin Williams, another legendary comic has left this world. After being rushed to a hospital during a vocal chord surgery caused her to suffer cardiac arrest, Joan Rivers has passed away at age 81. Rivers was was in intensive care over the weekend, having been placed in life support and being kept in an induced coma. Just two days ago, daughter Melissa Rivers let everyone know, "My mother has been moved out of intensive care and into a private room where she is being kept comfortable," but it seems things took a bad turn as she confirmed her mother's death today.
Here's the official statement from Rivers' daughter (via ABC News):
"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."
While many might know Rivers for her work on the E! Network, which includes fashion policing and various red carpet activities before and after awards shows, she has a long, decorated history as an iconic and influential comedian, and as a female comic, she broke down many barriers, paving the way for plenty more comediennes to follow in her stead. Rivers remembered her early years, "When I started out, a pretty girl did not go into comedy. If you saw a pretty girl walk into a nightclub, she was automatically a singer. Comedy was all white, older men. I didn’t even want to be a comedian. Nobody wanted to be a comedian!"
Rivers started where many iconic comedians do, on the late night talk show circuit, appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. She would go on to be mentored by Carson, and even became a permanent guest host of "The Tonight Show" during times when Carson was on a break. However, her relationship with Carson became a sacrifice to her own rising fame as she took on her own show in 1986 on Fox called "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers." It was short-lived, lasting only a year, but because of this professional move, she and Carson never spoke gain. But she did share the screen with Miss Piggy in The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Rivers did face struggles though after the suicide of her second husband, Edgar Rosenberg (Melissa's father), which included considering suicide herself. Speaking to The Daily Beast about this time in her life she said, "What saved me, was my dog jumped into my lap. I thought, 'No one will take care of him.' I had the gun in my lap, and the dog sat on the gun. I lecture on suicide because things turn around. I tell people this is a horrible, awful dark moment, but it will change and you must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, 'Life is great, life goes on. It changes.'"
And she would go on to find success with films like Spaceballs in 1987 as the voice of the lady C-3PO-style droid Dot Matrix, and even better, a daytime talk show called "The Joan Rivers Show" in 1989. That earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host and led into her long-running career at E!, where she's hosted plenty of shows including "Fashion Police" and eventually a reality show called "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" on WE TV. In recent years she lent her voice to a Spaceballs animated series, "The Simpsons" and Shrek 2, not to mention appearances on shows like "Louie" and an appearance as herself in Iron Man 3.
Rivers was someone you either loves or hated, but many who hated her, just didn't seem to be in on the joke. No matter how insulting Rivers might be to any given personality, comedian or subject, it was all in good fun. She was edgy, controversial and a true original. Without Rivers, there's no telling how many comediennes like Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin wouldn't have careers today. If you're looking for some great insight into the life and career of Joan Rivers, go out of your way to watch the showbiz documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, available on Netflix Instant right now. Joan Rivers is a comedy icon whose loud, boisterous nature will be missed in the entertainment world. Rest in peace.