1. Her real name is Joan Alexandra Molinsky.
Before taking the stage name Joan Rivers she was a young, brash, struggling comedian from Brooklyn, NY.
2. She graduated from Barnard College with a degree in English.
3. She worked as a fashion coordinator for Bond Clothing Store and as a publicist for Lord and Taylor.
4. Her first marriage only lasted six weeks.
The marriage was annulled on the basis that Sanger did not want children and had not informed Rivers before the wedding.
5. She once kissed Barbara Streisand.
In 1959 she played a small lesbian role opposite Barbara Streisand in an off-broadway play Driftwood. The Garrett Theater was a tiny theater space with 40 seats and the show played for six weeks.
6. She was part of “Jim, Jake, and Joan” a comedic musical trio.
In 1964 the trio, that often performed musical numbers on stage, appeared in the film Once Upon A Coffee House. The film only played in Miami, Florida before being shelved.
7. Her first television appearance was on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
She told CNN after his passing, “He was the one that said, “You’re going to be a star” the first night I worked. He was an amazing man and an amazing mentor.”
8. She became his first female co-host.
In 1983, she signed a contract making her the permanent substitute for Carson. Rivers hosted The Tonight Show on a weekly basis as Carson often went on vacation and worked many shortened weeks.
9. She made several appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
10. She was known for her physical stand-up routines.
At the the Hollywood Palace in 1966.
11. She often performed stand-up using the stage name Pepper January.
12. Her first movie role, in 1968, was in the cult classic “The Swimmer”, also starring Burt Lancaster.
Her short scene took nearly seven days to shoot.
13. She directed a made-for-TV movie:
This campy and hilariously tragic black comedy starred a young Stockard Channing and Edward Asner. Good news is you can still catch this classic from 1973 on Netflix today.
14. She introduced us to Billy Crystal:
She directed her first film Rabbit Test in 1978, which starred Billy Crystal in his film debut as the world’s first pregnant man.
Yes…the world’s first pregnant man. Needless to say it bombed at the box-office.
15. Johnny Carson played an elaborate prank on her in 1983, hiring an actress to impersonate Margret Thatcher.
See the prank play out here.
16. She had her own show in 1986, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” on Fox.
The talk show didn’t run for more than a year before being cancelled. The show fueled a falling out between Joan and Johnny Carson.
17. She published several hit comedy books.
Her best-selling humor book, The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abramowitz, was a mock memoir of her comedy character published in 1984. A television special based on the character was not successful with the public.
18. She was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1985.
The recordings contained routines on the Royal Family, fame, sex, Heidi Abromowitz and, of course, gynecologists.
19. She received A Harvard Hasty Pudding Award for “Woman of The Year” in 1984.
The award is bestowed annually by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals society at Harvard University. It is given to performers deemed to have made a “lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.”
20. She sang with Mr. Rogers on live television.
Singing with Fred Rogers in 1986.
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