Comedian Joan Rivers died today at the age of 81 following complications with throat surgery on her vocal chords. Rivers was rushed to the hospital Thursday after she stopped breathing during the routine procedure. She had been unconscious in a medically-induced coma since she entered the hospital.
“She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends,” her daughter, Melissa, said in a statement. “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.”
Rivers got her start as a guest on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965, often filling in as host for Johnny Carson over the years. But after she took a job as a rival host on the Fox network with consulting Carson, he banned her from the Tonight Show, a situation that stayed in effect until she briefly appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s first night as host earlier this year.
The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers only lasted one season, but she went on to successful stint of reality shows later in life, including Fashion Police and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? with her daughter Melissa Rivers.
Watch CNN report the news and pay tribute to Rivers below:
In 2010, Rivers’ life and career was captured in the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. It was a simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking look into what it took for her to get where she ended up and how much it meant to her to continue working as a comedian into her 70s and then 80s.
Watch the documentary trailer below, via YouTube:
Update- 4:45 pm: E! (the network where Rivers worked for many, many years) and NBCUniversal issued this statement on her passing:
“E! and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Melissa, Cooper and her entire extended family on this incredibly sad day. For decades Joan has made people laugh, shattered glass ceilings and revolutionized comedy. She was unapologetic and fiercely dedicated to entertaining all of us and has left an indelible mark on the people that worked with her and on her legions of fans. She’s been a much beloved member of the E! family for over 20 years and the world is less funny without her in it. Today our hearts are heavy knowing Joan will not be bounding through the doors.”
[Photo via Wikimedia Commons]
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