(This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.)
Joan Rivers is a force of nature. Her caustic voice, relentless energy and driving ambition remain formidable, while her flinty toughness has carried her through bruising career reverses and shocking personal tragedies. Joan is the queen of comebacks and a master of all media, having invaded every format from stand-up, theater, movies and books to talk shows, shopping channels, reality TV, radio and the web.
When I arrived on the public scene after the release of my first book in 1990, I was called "the academic Joan Rivers" -- a title I loved. Yes, Joan influenced me profoundly. Watching her on TV, I learned so much about how to work a crowd or wake up groggy students in my morning classes. With her combative, rapid-fire style, Joan has shown generations of women how to command a stage and make it your own.
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