Happy Birthday Joan Rivers: Remembering the Iconic TV Personality and Comedian On Her Would-Be 88th

by John Jamison
(Photo by I.C. Rapoport/Getty Images)

Comedy icon Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, 2014. She was 81 years old at the time. But on June 8, 1933, the television legend was born. Let’s take a look back at the 88 years that have passed since then.

Joan Rivers was a New York girl, through and through. She was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents, her original name being Joan Alexandra Molinsky. She went to college, where she discovered a passion for performing. But she initially decided to pursue a more traditional career in business.

After a failed marriage, however, Joan Rivers made the decision to give her creative side all of the attention it deserved. That’s when she started putting her time in. After years of performing comedy in small clubs, she hit the jackpot. “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” came calling in 1965. Rivers knocked her appearance out of the park. And the rest is history.

The late 1960s saw Joan Rivers’ career take off. Her irreverent style of comedy was a smash hit, and people couldn’t get enough of her. In 1968, she earned her own program, “That Show with Joan Rivers.” And she never fully abandoned the talk show scene, becoming a legendary figure on the circuit. Though, she did branch off into the world of writing.

In 1978, she penned and directed the film “Rabbit Test” starring Billy Crystal. She went on to write best-selling books, she recorded a Grammy-nominated comedy album, and she won an Emmy Award in 1990. There was seemingly nothing Joan Rivers couldn’t do.

You can watch her perform a comedy set at the Apollo Theater below.

Joan Rivers Was the First Female Late-Night Talk Show Host

Joan Rivers paved the road for women in comedy. She was a frequent guest and even a guest host on programs like “The Tonight Show.” But in 1986, she made history. She became the first female host of a late-night talk show, running “The Late Show” for more than 150 episodes.

Then, tragedy struck. Joan Rivers’ husband, Edgar Rosenburg, committed suicide in 1987 after squandering away much of the couple’s wealth. She lost her gig on “The Late Show” and found herself blacklisted by much of the scene.

After a dark period, Rivers resolved to make a comeback. And that’s exactly what she did. The latter half of her career was just as, if not more prolific than the first.

These days, many remember Joan for interviewing stars on the red carpet and her countless appearances on late-night talk shows. She was active up until her death from complications during a surgical procedure in 2014.

Rest easy, Joan! Here’s to you.