Just hours before Joan Rivers went into cardiac arrest Thursday, she joked about her mortality during a stand-up show in Manhattan. Friday morning, Rivers was still in critical but stable condition and resting comfortably, according to WABC-TV in New York City. She went into cardiac arrest in an Upper East Side doctor’s office during what was described as a routine outpatient medical procedure.
It is not publicly known how long Joan was deprived of oxygen, and what her prospects of recovery are.
Rivers, who originally wanted to be an actress, got her start as a comedian about five decades ago when she was looking for temp work to pay the bills and found out about stand-up. The 81-year-old’s stage schedule is still packed: Joan was scheduled to perform seven shows throughout the U.S. in November and was booked to perform at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey Friday.
She said at the start of her career after she was brought onto The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to fill in, she just didn’t fit in.
“I never was one of the guys,” said Rivers in a piece she wrote for The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “I was never asked to go hang out; I never thought about it until later,” she wrote. “I never got to go uptown and have a sandwich with them. So, even though I was with them, I wasn’t with them.”
Rivers revealed she wanted to be an actress but while she was working as an office temp she learned she could make more money doing stand-up. She claimed she had no idea what she was doing and didn’t really fit in with the other male stand-up comedians coming up at the time.
But she kept at it and met with tremendous success.
Today, Rivers is host of Fashion Police and stars in WE TV’s reality series with her daughter, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? A native New Yorker, Joan has also authored 12 books, most recently the “Diary of a Mad Diva.” She also heads up the Joan Rivers Classics Collection of jewelry and apparel for QVC, which has been a top seller for nearly a quarter of a century.
In her essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Rivers wrote that comedy is the one place where performers do not get hobbled by their age.
“Ignore aging: Comedy is the one place it doesn’t matter,” she wrote. “It matters in singing because the voice goes. It matters certainly in acting because you’re no longer the sexpot. But in comedy, if you can tell a joke, they will gather around your deathbed. If you’re funny, you’re funny. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Always able to boil things down to a few funny words, Joan Rivers has also called being a comedian her “drug of choice.”