Joan Rivers, the legendary comedian and talk-show host, died on Thursday afternoon, her daughter Melissa Rivers said in a statement.
“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends.”
Rivers, 81, had been in critical condition since last week when she stopped breathing during a procedure on her vocal chords.
“My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn as Joan Alexandra Molinsky, Rivers moved to Westchester before returning to New York City to attend Barnard College, from which she graduated with a degree in English and anthropology.
After stints as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center and a shoe buyer for Lord & Taylor, Rivers began doing stand-up comedy and was advised by agent Tony Rivers to drop Molinsky for a stage name.
Her colorful career in show business began in the 1950s with a notable but short-lived play called “Driftwood,” in which she played a lesbian lusting after Barbra Streisand. It was a gig as permanent guest host on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” however, that really set her career up for takeoff.
After getting her feet wet in the television circuit, she met TV executive Edgar Rosenberg in 1965, and four days later they were married.
In 1986, Rivers took an offer from Fox to host her own show, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.” But her career, based upon the role of a comical, complaining wife, soon took a tragic turn.
After Rivers and Rosenberg couldn’t agree with medling Fox producers, she was fired by the network in 1987. That same year, Rosenberg committed suicide.
Always one to fight sadness with comedy, Rivers launched daytime talk show “The Joan Rivers Show” in 1989, and let the world in on her ups and downs with the 1994 TV movie “Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story.”
In 2010, she began hosting E! News show “Fashion Police,” and earned a gaggle of young followers, known as “Joan Rangers,” thanks to her quick-witted (and rarely politically correct) criticism of celebrities’ wardrobe choices.
Her antics at home with Melissa were aired on WEtv’s “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” in which Joan tackled her version of the bucket list, a [expletive] list, upon turning 80.
Joan’s Hollywood colleagues took to Twitter after they heard the news:
Bob Saget: So funny and irrepressible. Rest in peace, Joan Rivers.
Bette Midler: Joan Rivers has died. What a sad ending to a brilliant and tragi-comic life; one of the bravest, and funniest of all.
Kathy Griffin: A legend, a friend, a mentor, an icon, and wildly funny. One of a kind. RIP #JoanRivers
Gilbert Gottfried: First Robin. Now Joan. The world just became a less funny place. RIP Joan Rivers.
Ellen DeGeneres: Joan Rivers will always be a pioneer. She paved the way for a lot of comedians. I’m very sad she’s gone.
Anna Kendrick: RIP Joan Rivers. Being publicly told that my dress is hideous will never feel quite as awesome. You will be truly missed.
Joel McHale: We will miss you @Joan_Rivers. What you did in your life was absolutely remarkable. Your rep for kindness to everyone was completely true.