Joan Rivers (born Joan Alexandra Molinsky) was a Brooklyn-born comedian who wrote more than 1 million jokes–each individually typed on index cards and archived by subject. Popular categories included: sex, cosmetic surgery, insincere show people, 9/11, and whores. She got her big break in 1965 while working for TV’s first reality show, Candid Camera, as a gag writer and participant (she lured people into dubious situations). That same year, she appeared on The Tonight Show hosted by Johnny Carson who decades later made her his regular guest host–until she really pissed him off. She appeared repeatedly in numerous TV shows (Carol Burnett, Hollywood Squares), an eclectic selection of movies (The Swimmer, Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse), and hosted a variety of self-titled daytime talk shows (the abject failure of her FOX show was to blame, she believed, for the suicide of her second husband Edgar). She also wrote books, performed and produced live comedy, and made albums including “Can We Talk?” – her most famous catchphrase.
Since 1983, Rivers had been devoutly loyal to her plastic surgeon, Steven Hoefflin, who occasionally moonlighted (Rivers’ facial upkeep could be considered a full-time job) on the likes of her former boss, the comedian Phyllis Diller, as well as late legends Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, who Rivers once joked on Saturday Night Live “has more chins than a Chinese telephone directory.” (Former Taylor paramour Richard Burton famously credited Taylor with only a “double chin.”) Rivers recovered from crow’s feet, bulimia, a suicide attempt and along the way earned $800 million in sales from her QVC jewelry collection. That’s no joke. RIP Joan Rivers.
–a version of this biography appeared earlier here.