In heartbreaking news, legendary comedian Joan Rivers has died at age 81.
Rivers was admitted to the hospital last Thursday while undergoing surgery on her vocal cords at a clinic in New York City when she stopped breathing and had to be transported to Mount Sinai Hospital. Her daughter Melissa, and her 13-year-old grandson Cooper have been by her side ever since, and Melissa issued a statement today.
“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17 pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother. Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
The raspy-voiced Rivers—who rose to comedy fame in the mid-’60s on the New York club circuit—became a national name thanks to her frequent appearances on “The Tonight Show,” eventually becoming the permanent stand-in for Johnny Carson. In 1995, she and Melissa started appearing on E! as red-carpet correspondents before taking their act to the TV Guide channel.
Despite the fact that some stars weren’t a fan of Rivers’ frank, devil-may-care, politically incorrect brand of comedy, she moved back to E! in 2010 to host “Fashion Police” alongside Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne, and George Kotsiopoulos, which she had been doing up until her admission to the hospital last week.
“The way she is funny, she tells the truth according to herself,” the late film critic Roger Ebert wrote of Rivers in 2010. “She hates some people. She has political opinions. Her observations are so merciless and her timing so precise that even if you like that person, you laugh. She is a sadist of comedy, unafraid to be cruel — even too cruel.”
One thing that made Rivers so successful—and divisive—was the fact that nothing or nobody was too precious for her to make jokes about—race, weight, religion, public figures were all in her repertoire—but she also know how to take it, often poking fun at her own looks, her obsession with plastic surgery, and her age.
“I mock everybody, regardless of race, creed or color,” she told the Toronto Star in July. “Every joke I make, no matter how tasteless, is there to draw attention to something I really care about.”