Comedy Pioneer Joan Rivers Dead At 81

September 5, 2014

The legendary comedian Joan Rivers, whose mastery of one-liners caused a lot of laughter and tears for five decades, died on Thursday, aged 81.

Rivers suffered a cardiac arrest during a throat surgery on her vocal cords on August 28th. She was rushed to the Mount Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side. She never regained consciousness.

Melissa Rivers, her daughter, issued a statement saying:

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1.17pm surrounded by family and close friends. 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 travelled to New York from Los Angeles with her son Cooper after her mother fell ill. “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that’s difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

Joan Rivers appeared first time on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” and from then on ascended to the top of show business. TV shows, stand-ups, reality shows – she mastered it all. Rivers had been hosting an online weekly talk show called “In Bed with Joan,” and had just filmed a special award-show episode of E!’s “Fashion Police.” She was frequently performing stand-ups, and had just finished the fourth season of “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”

“If there’s a secret to being a comedian, it’s just loving what you do. It’s my drug of choice. I don’t need real drugs. I don’t need liquor. It’s the joy that I get performing. That’s my rush. I get it nowhere else,” Rivers said in an interview.

Joan was also well-known and recognizable for all of the surgical procedures that significantly altered her looks. Instead of keeping it an obvious secret as many people do, they became a source of material for her acts. “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they’ll donate my body to Tupperware,” she once said.

Many celebrities have been issuing tributes to Joan and her long career. Former first lady, Nancy Reagan, whose close circle of friends included Rivers, was one of them. Regan said that Joan was not only a dear friend, but one of the kindest and funniest people she ever knew.

She added that she doubts there’s anyone who hasn’t laughed at her or with her until they cried. “Today our tears are those of sadness. I know I join millions in saying, ‘Thanks for the good times Joan, we will truly miss you.’ My love and deepest sympathy go to Melissa and Cooper.”

Former CNN host Larry King knew Rivers for 45 years. “She knew no boundaries. Everything was funny to her. You couldn’t really object because she took no prisoners.” Donald Trump, who chose her as the winner on a season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” said Rivers was stronger at the end than she was at the beginning and that she had unbelievable stamina.

Ryan Seacrest, who worked with her on E! shows, called Rivers “a trailblazer in so many ways.” Hollywood legend Liza Minnelli said Rivers was one of her dearest friends. “I will miss her but I will always remember the laughter and friendship she brought into my life,” Minnelli said.