In what is turning out to be a pretty awful month, comedy legend Joan Rivers has passed away at the age of 81, only a few days after complications arose during throat surgery. Rivers' fifty-year career saw her lay the groundwork for comediennes, putting her stamp on the stand-up comedy field largely dominated by men. She set herself apart with a brash, politically incorrect in-your-face style that pushed boundaries further than many were accustomed to. Her approach gained her a lot of fans and kept her popularity high even as others tried to be inoffensive. She was a frequent guest on late night talk shows, and in 1986 she became the first woman to host her own with The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.
While she mostly stuck to the stand-up circuit, Rivers was a multi-talented writer, actress, and film director. She gave Billy Crystal his first on-screen appearance in the 1978 film, Rabbit Test, which she wrote and directed. The terrific and highly recommended documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work focused on her trailblazing career, while also showing her incredible work ethic that most comedians half her age couldn't keep up with. And that will be the thing that sticks with me the most; how tireless she was in staying at the top of her game. For me it's unfortunate that so many people will only know her from her fashion critiques on E! or for her plastic surgeries. She was truly one of the greats and deserves much better than that.
We send our condolences to Rivers' family and friends.