How Joan Rivers Paved the Way for Female Comedians

Joan Rivers, Female Comedian
Illustrations by Kirby Salvador

Joan Rivers (1933–2014)

Comedy legend Joan Rivers ripped through the comedy world with her razor-sharp jokes and self-deprecating humor. Though sometimes criticized for tearing down other women to get a laugh, her no-holds-barred approach to humor paved the way for generations of female comedians. Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Rivers began doing comedy as a way to fund her acting career. In the 1980s she became a permanent guest host on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, later branching off to host the first female late-night talk show—The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Though her involvement with the show led to a falling out with Carson, Rivers went on to win an Emmy and secure her legacy as a red-carpet and comedic icon.

Quote by Joan Rivers, Female Comedian
Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough. –Joan Rivers

This feature originally appeared in the Play issue. For more inspiring stories from that issue, check out Playing Dress-Up Was My Job … So Who Was I? and Happy Hour with Ivy Mix.

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