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Fact Checking the Parallels Between Joan Rivers and Jean Smart in Hacks

Jean Smart‘s Hacks character Deborah Vance brings to mind numerous comediennes.

Her humble beginnings as a husband and wife duo was inspired by Elaine May and Mike Nichols, according to The Wrap. And Deborah’s subsequent divorce was very loosely based on the breakup of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who, unlike Deborah, maintained a cordial friendship after their split. 

However, the most obvious source of inspiration for the HBO Max character was E!’s own Joan Rivers, a blunt blonde who loved to look good, work hard and make people laugh. 

The comedienne, who died in Sept. 2014 from surgery complications, shared a similarly crude sense of humor, often poking fun at traditional gender roles. It was this devil-may-care attitude that Jean loved about the personality, telling The Cut in May, “I wasn’t trying to do her, because my sensibilities are different than what she did, but she was just genius when she was younger.”

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