"Nothing has ever come easily for me”, Joan Rivers once said. “My whole career has been just hard, hurting, little steps."
But despite some setbacks, Rivers won an EMMY in 1990 for Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host for THE JOAN RIVERS SHOW, which ran for five seasons. Most recently, she was nominated for both Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her outstanding performance as comedian Lenny Bruce's mother in the Broadway production of "Sally Marr And Rev Escorts," which Rivers also helped write. She also co-starred with her daughter, Melissa, in "Tears and Laughter The Joan and Melissa Rivers story," an NBC-TV MOW that traced their rocky, mother-daughter relationship following the suicide of Joan's husband and Melissa’s father, Edgar Rosenberg.
Boundless energy and dogged determination have been as important to Joan's success as her considerable talent and unique style.
Today, those hard, hurting steps have brought Joan to the point where she is a one-woman show business conglomerate, comedienne, author, actress, playwright screen writer, motion picture director, nightclub headliner, television ,talk show' hostess and, most importantly, mother to Melissa
Joan began her remarkable career entertaining in closet-like clubs and lounges (which often passed the hat in lieu of paying her a salary). In 1960, she graduated to Greenwich village cabarets and coffee houses, and later honed her comedic skills at Chicago's renowned "Second city." Today you will find Joan in the most prestigious concert venues across the country, including Caesars World's showrooms in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City.
Her signature question, "Can we talk?" has reached such major proportions that the U.S. government has officially registered it as a federal: trademark.
Never at a loss for words, Joan produced a thrice-weekly syndicated column for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE from 1973-76. The popular column described life's experiences as only Joan could express them. Regretfully, she had to relinquish the column due to her many other commitments.
Her first book, Having a Baby Can Be a Scream, was published in 1974 and sold over 1.5 million copies in hardcover and an additional 2.5 million in paperback. An updated edition of this perennial best seller was published in 1984 by Avon. Joan's “very best friend,” the tramp Heidi Abramowitz, debuted pen-in-cheek in 1984 when Joan authored The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz for Delacorte Press. With an initial hardcover printing of half-a-million (and sales to date of more than 650,000), it is only the second time in the history of the Literary guild that a book of a comedic nature has been chosen as an Alternate Selection. In England, Heidi is already in its third printing.
In May of 1986, Joan’s autobiography, Enter Talking, was published by Delacorte Press and climbed to number four on the NEW YORK TIMES’ best seller list in only two weeks. The book chronicled her life up until the first appearance on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” and featured previously unpublished photographs. It was a brutally honest account of a major celebrity’s defeats, humiliations, rejections and determination. Which ultimately led to success.
The sequel, Still Talking, was published by Turtle Bay Books/Random House in November 1991 with an initial printing of 125,000 copies. It received excellent reviews, made bestseller lists across the country and was a Book-of-the-Month selection. Still Talking was recently published in paperback by Avon.
Television and movies have also been vehicles for Joan’s talents. After writing for Allen Funt’s “Candid Camera,” she wrote and starred in the popular syndicated talk show “That Show” on NBC for 260 half-hour segments from 1969-1971. In 1973, shoe wrote the critically acclaimed ABC-TV movie “The Girl Most Likely To,’ which, at that time, became the highest rated made-for-television movie. The movie also holds the distinction for the most repeat airings.
As an aspiring comic in the early '60s, Joan auditioned seven times unsuccessfully for "The Tonight Show." Yet by 1993 -- 18 years after her first appearance with Johnny Carson "The Tonight Show" broke tradition and named Joan as its sole permanent quest hostess, a position she held for the next three years.
In 1984, Joan became only the , third person to appear as the sole quest on the highly regarded "Audience With" on London Weekend Television. The program registered the highest ratings for an entertainment program in the history of the network and inspired the BBC, specials. in 1985, to sign Joan for a series of six one-hour special. Titled "Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?," the shows aired in April of 1986 and garnered the highest ratings of any chat show in the network’s history.
Stateside, Joan continued to cause a sensation as well, when her own one-hour comedy special, “Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz," aired on Showtime cable TV in June of 1985.
Then, on October 9,1986 "The Late Show starring Joan Rivers" premiered on the new Fox Broadcasting Network, launching what was hoped would become the "4th Network.” The refreshing spontaneity of the "live format and Joan's one-of-a-kind brand of humor set her show apart from all the others. But, in spite of a loyal following and good ratings it was not to be, and in May of the following year, Joan and Fox parted company.
In, September 1989, THE JOAN RIVERS SHOW premiered and as a result of its immediate success, the USA network signed Rivers to host GOSSIP, GOSSIP, GOSSIP which aired twice weekly on the network. She also starred in "How To Marry a Millionaire," a two-hour telefilm for CBS-TV that aired in 1990.
Later that same year, Rivers introduced THE JOAN RIVERS CLASSICS COLLECTION, a line of fine fashion jewelry, in a “live" broadcast on the QVC Network. Since that time, she has sold over $70,000.00 in jewelry via QVC.
In 1993 Rivers' company was acquired by Regal Communications and, in January of this year, they combined forces with QVC and Tribune Entertainment on "Can We Shop?" a daily one-hour Syndicated strip Combining celebrity interviews and the phenomenon of televised home shopping.
Joan’s feature film work includes the 1969 United Artists’ picture “The Swimmer,” with Burt Lancaster, which was directed by Frank Perry and produced by Sam Spiegel. She made her own successful film directorial debut in 1978 with the irreverent comedy hit, “Rabbit Test,” co-written with Jay Redak. In 1989, Joan and writing partner Tom Perew wrote the baby dialogue and jokes for Tri-Star’s comedy hit “Look Who’s Talking.”
Joan is also no stranger to Broadway. In 1971, she starred in “Fun City,” which she co-wrote with her late husband Edgar Rosenberg (who died August 14, 1987) and Lester Kolodny; and, on June 21, 1988, took over the role of the mother in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” for a limited engagement.
In addition, her comedy album, “What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?” (Geffen Records), was nominated for a Grammy in 1983. The overwhelming success of the album increased her legion of fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Joan, who has been called the “queen of the barbed one-liners,” is not only a devoted mother, but deeply committed to helping others less fortunate.
National spokesperson for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and an advocate for Suicide Prevention, Joan has also been actively involved in the war against Aids since 1982 when she become the first celebrity to call attention to the impending AIDS crises when she hosted and headlined the first AIDS benefit at the Backlot Theatre in Los Angeles. When no other celebrities would agree to participate, Joan, knowing “the show must go on,” recruited three female impersonators to perform. In May of 1985, Joan assumed center stage once again on behalf of AIDS – this time at the Shubert Theatre in New York --- when she participated in “Comic Relief,” a fundraiser co-produced and co-hosted by Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Randy Newman, Gregory Hines and Steve Martin also performed that evening. On November 16, Joan was presented with the 1985 Humanitarian Award at the Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center’s annual “Friends of the Center” fundraiser in Hollywood, in recognition of her many efforts.
In August of 1989, Joan and her friend, Andrea Marcovicci, headlined two benefit performances, once again at the Backlot, to raise money for the Chris Brownlee Hospice in memory of two of their dear friends who succumbed to AIDS.
Leading the list of multiple honors bestowed upon Joan is the Harvard Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award in 1984 and the first-ever Harvard Instant Pudding Award in 1986, making her the only performer ever to have been honored twice by the prestigious dramatic society Joan has hosted the Emmy Awards, the television industry’s most elegant evening, and dined at the White House as the guest of President and Mrs. Reagan. Her other awards include the Jimmy Award, the Georgie from the American Guild of Variety Artists as Best Comedienne, and Nightclub Performer of the Year from the New York Friars Club. She also has been twice named the Las Vegas Comedienne of the year and has received one Clio for best performer in a television commercial. In 1989, she was honored with her own “Star” on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame.”
Rivers shares residences in New York and Beverly Hills with Spike, the “wonder dog.” Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. When not entertaining, writing or acting, Joan Rivers is busy shopping!