Joan Rivers, Tart-Tongued Comic and Emmy-Winning Host, Dead at 81

Joan Rivers, the acerbic comedian, Emmy-winning TV host, red-carpet fashion critic and “celebreality” star, died Thursday in New York City following complications from surgery last week.

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Rivers, 81, had been in a medically induced coma at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital since her heart stopped beating during a doctor’s office procedure on her vocal cords. She had been moved to a private room on Wednesday, and was reportedly taken off life support this afternoon.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” daughter Melissa said in a statement. “She passed peacefully at 1:17pm 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.”

Joan Rivers found fame in the ’60s and ’70s performing standup on programs like The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, hosting a syndicated talker and making regular appearances on staples like Candid Camera, The Carol Burnett Show and Hollywood Squares.

Her star rose even higher in the early 1980s, when serving as permanent guest-host for her mentor Johnny Carson on NBC’s The Tonight Show, but the two famously had a falling out when Rivers jumped ship to launch The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers on Fox in 1986. Rivers’ stint at the fledgling network did not last long — she and her executive-producers/husband Edgar Rosenberg were fired a year later; three months after that, Rosenberg commited suicide. (Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, would famously go on to play themselves in Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story, a TV movie based on the aftermath of Rosenberg’s death.)

Rivers bounced back from her late-night setback by launching The Joan Rivers Show, a daytime gig that ran from 1989 to 1994 — and won her a Daytime Emmy in 1990 for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

In the last two decades, Rivers’ relentless work ethic and unapologetic cantankerousness — captured brilliantly in the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — made her a polarizing staple of red-carpet commentary and a wide range of reality shows, with her decidedly un-PC humor often getting her into hot water.

She began co-hosting E!’s Fashion Police starting in 2002, won NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2009, was the subject of a Comedy Central roast that same year and even starred alongside her daughter in WE tv’s Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, which completed its fourth season in May.

As recently as July, the comic made headlines after storming out in the middle of a CNN interview while promoting her book Diary of a Mad Diva.

“You really think Nicki Minaj cares I didn’t like her dress?” Rivers huffed when anchor Fredricka Whitfield characterized her guest’s Fashion Police commentary as very mean. “You are not the one to interview a person who does humor, sorry!”

Check out video below of the trailer for A Piece of Work, an Ed Sullivan appearance, and a Tonight Show sitdown with Carson in which Rivers throws hilarious shade at Christie Brinkley, then share your own favorite memories in the comments.


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