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Comedy Icon, Tony Nominee & Broadway Cheerleader Joan Rivers Dead at 81

Comedy Icon, Tony Nominee & Broadway Cheerleader Joan Rivers Dead at 81
Photo by: Bruce Glikas
Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers appeared on Broadway three times in her career.

Legendary comedian and Tony nominee Joan Rivers died on September 4, following surgery complications, according to Reuters. As previously reported, Rivers stopped breathing while undergoing a throat procedure at Yorkville Endoscopy on the Upper East Side and was rushed to the Mt. Sinai Hospital. She was 81 years old.

Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933, Rivers graduated from Barnard College with a degree in English literature and worked in various media jobs before turning to a career in show business. She appeared as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show, receiving recognition for her already signature comedic style. She went on to become the host of The Late Show, and in 1989, The Joan Rivers Show, for which she received a Daytime Emmy Award.

In 1959, Rivers starred in the off-Broadway play Driftwood, opposite a relatively unknown Barbra Streisand. She appeared on Broadway three times in her career; she made her debut in Fun City;in 1972 and went on to perform in Broadway Bound. In 1994, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Sally Marr...and her escorts. Last year, she contributed material for off-Broadway's Stars of David

Her many one-woman specials include Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, Joan Rivers: The Now or Never Tour and Joan Rivers: Before They Close the Lid Tour. She was the subject of the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and the author of several books, including Diary of a Mad Diva and I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me. Rivers was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1984 for her comedy album, What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?

Most recently, Rivers remained in the public eye as a co-host of E!’s Fashion Police, reviewing the latest red carpet fashion hits and misses. She also starred in the WE TV reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, alongside her daughter, fellow television personality Melissa Rivers.

She was reportedly gearing up to reprise her performance in Sally Marr...and her escorts, which she wrote alongside Erin Sanders and Lonny Price. Earlier this month, she shared a picture on Twitter with costume designer William Ivey Long, presumably in preparation for her return to the stage.

In addition to performing, Rivers was a frequent theatergoer, making appearances at shows including Rocky, Mothers and Sons and Romeo and Juliet. On Show People with Paul Wontorek, Rivers expressed her love for the stage performances of the likes of Patti LuPone and Scarlett Johansson. While she may be remembered for her sharp tongue and brutally honest opinions, Rivers told Broadway.com, “I love actors I love actress. I always think we’re such a sorority or fraternity—a little group—a band of brothers.”

Rivers is survived by her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper.

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