Joan Rivers

  • Birth Name: Joan Alexandra Molinsky
  • Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, United States
  • Died: September 4, 2014
  • Profession: TV host, Actor, Writer


Although in her later career, she was known for her fashion quips and myriad trips to the plastic surgeon, Rivers was also a pioneering woman in stand-up comedy whose hilarious self-deprecating humor, biting one-liners and "can we talk?" catchphrase got her bookings in Las Vegas and on The Tonight Show, where Johnny Carson declared her a future star in 1965. The kooky comedian did indeed become a celebrity — primarily as a host, although she also appeared in a number of TV shows and movies (usually as herself or some version thereof). Carson provided a big career boost by booking her as guest host of his show, a regular gig that ended when Rivers angered the late-night king by launching her own short-lived show in 1986. She bounced back in the 1990s, hosting a number of daytime talk shows, appearing on Broadway, hawking her own jewelry line on QVC, playing herself in a TV-movie about her dramatic life and finally signing on to E! Entertainment Television in 1995 (along with her only child, Melissa) to cohost fashion and preaward-show programs from the red carpet. The duo jumped to the TV Guide Channel in 2005, but left two years later and eventually returned to E!

Fast Facts

  • Was billed early in her career as Pepper January, Comedy with Spice.
  • Wrote for Candid Camera.
  • In 1961, worked with Chicago's Second City improv group.  
  • In 1988, replaced Linda Lavin on Broadway in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound.
  • Won a Daytime Emmy in 1990 for Outstanding Talk Show Host for The Joan Rivers Show.
  • In the 1994 biopic Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story, she and her daughter played themselves.
  • Had a lucrative side job pushing her own line of jewelry on QVC.
  • Played herself in the second-season finale of Nip/Tuck.
  • Collected Fabergé eggs.
  • Posthumously nominated for a Grammy award for Best Spoken Word Album for her album Diary of a Mad Diva, in 2014.


  • 1994, Tony — Actress (Play): Nominee
  • 2014, Grammy — Best Spoken Word Album: Winner


  • James Sanger — Ex-husband
  • Barbara Molinsky — Sister
  • Beatrice Molinsky — Mother
  • Melissa Rivers — Daughter
  • Meyer C. Molinsky — Father
  • Edgar Rosenberg — Husband (deceased)


  • Attended Connecticut College for Women, New London, Connecticut, United States; Barnard College, New York, New York, United States (BA, 1954)