Legendary comic Joan Rivers died today after complications from throat surgery. She was 81 years old.
The icon’s daughter Melissa Rivers confirmed the sad news. “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Melissa said in a statement today. “She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. 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.”
Melissa added that she and her son Cooper “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 was undergoing surgery on her vocal cords at a New York City clinic on Aug. 28 when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. That clinic is now under investigation by the New York Department of Health. She was later put on life support at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The Fashion Police cohost was a pioneer in the comedy world. “When I started out, a pretty girl did not go into comedy. If you saw a pretty girl walk into a nightclub, she was automatically a singer. Comedy was all white, older men,” Rivers wrote in 2012. “I didn’t even want to be a comedian. Nobody wanted to be a comedian!”
Once a fixture on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, her relationship with her longtime friend abruptly ended when she nabbed her own late-night show. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers ended a year later; her husband Edgar Rosenberg killed himself shortly after. She later admitted she almost did the same.
“Melissa wasn’t talking to me, my career was in the toilet, I’d lost my Vegas contracts, I’d been fired from Fox,” she told the Daily Beast last month. “Carson and NBC had put out such bad publicity about me. I was a pariah. I wasn’t invited anywhere. I was a non-person. At one point, I thought, ‘What’s the point? This is stupid.’
“What saved me,” she continued, “was my dog jumped into my lap. I thought, ‘No one will take care of him…’ I had the gun in my lap, and the dog sat on the gun. I lecture on suicide because things turn around. I tell people this is a horrible, awful dark moment, but it will change and you must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, ‘Life is great, life goes on. It changes.'”
Rivers later won an Emmy for her daytime talk show. She and Melissa parlayed their successful red carpet coverage for E! News into the Fashion Police gig, and later landed their own reality show on WEtv, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?