Joan Rivers has died at the age of 81, her daughter Melissa Rivers confirms.
"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers," the 46-year-old said in a statement.
"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."
Melissa added, "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 comedienne stopped breathing last week while undergoing surgery on her vocal chords at a Manhattan clinic. She was rushed to the hospital and reportedly placed in a medically induced coma before her death just one week later.
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, N.Y., the college-educated performer was known for her no-holds-barred humor. She first began working as a fashion coordinator for a clothing firm before switching her focus to comedy.
After years of struggling in comedy clubs and appearing in the occasional TV guest spot, Joan mortgaged her home so she could write and direct her first film, Rabbit Test, starring a young Billy Crystal. Though the comedy flopped, the performer refused to give up.
Her first taste of national exposure came in 1965 when she appeared on NBC's Tonight Show. After developing a close bond with host Johnny Carson, she was named his permanent guest host in 1983.
By this time, her jokes had become more and more outrageous. Fans flocked to their television sets to hear her take on everyone from the Queen of England to Elizabeth Taylor. She even poked fun at her many cosmetic surgery procedures.
"I was the ugliest child ever born in Larchmont, New York. Oh, please! The doctor looked at me and slapped my mother," she once said.
Despite their long friendship, Joan and Johnny had a serious falling out in 1986 after the performer accepted a $3 million offer to host her own late-night program on Fox. It competed directly with Tonight. Johnny reportedly refused to take her calls after hearing the news.
"I'm the only woman in the history of the world who left Johnny Carson and didn't ask him for money," Joan joked of her former friend, who was married four times. She remained banished from the show until March 2014, when new host Jimmy Fallon invited her back on.
Unfortunately, Joan's Fox series was not a success and around the same time, her second husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide, which sent the comedienne into a tailspin.
Her contracts dried up and she became bulimic. She also became estranged from her only child, Melissa.
When the pair worked things out a few years later, Joan began to revive her career. She developed product lines for QVC and starred with Melissa in the 1994 docudrama, Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story.
The duo later became a power team at E! network where Joan revisited her fashion roots by talking style with Hollywood's biggest stars.
At the time of her death, Joan was moderating the extremely popular E! fashion show, Fashion Police, and hosting her own online talk show, In Bed with Joan. She also co-starred with Melissa and grandson Cooper on the WEtv reality show, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?
The entertainer touched on death and funerals in her book, Diary of a Mad Diva, writing, "I think funerals should be memorable," and crafted a list of things she'd like to see at her own.
A few of the best are:
Make sure the guy who cuts the tombstone is a good speller.
Don't break the news to my friends by singing, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Joan's Finally in a Casket."
To make my cold-as-ice WASP friends cry like the rest of the mourners, Melissa and Cooper should just tell them they've "run out of Wonder Bread."
"Death doesn't scare me," she wrote. "I just want to leave a legacy — something sexual would be good."
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