Joan Rivers, a pioneering female stand-up comic and the queen of “Can We Talk?” gossip, has died, her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said Thursday. She was 81.
Rivers was undergoing surgery on her vocal cords at a clinic in New York City on Aug. 28 when she stopped breathing and had to be transported to Mount Sinai Hospital. Melissa Rivers and Joan Rivers’ 13-year-old grandson, Cooper, who live in Malibu, California, rushed to her bedside.
“My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
Raspy-voiced and brassy, Rivers was always self-deprecating, foul-mouthed and politically incorrect. A master of reinvention, she endured in show business because of her tenacious work ethic — which she credited to her “immigrant mentality.”
Comedians typically push the edge of the envelope, but Rivers proved time and again that she didn’t even see the envelope. To her fans, she was as shocking as she was endearing.
“The way she is funny, she tells the truth according to herself,” the late film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 2010. “She hates some people. She has political opinions. Her observations are so merciless and her timing so precise that even if you like that person, you laugh. She is a sadist of comedy, unafraid to be cruel — even too cruel.”
From Elizabeth Taylor to Queen Elizabeth to even Anne Frank, Rivers loved going after public figures.
“Every joke I make, no matter how tasteless, is there to draw attention to something I really care about.”
Four years earlier, she explained her no-holds-barred approach to The Times of London: “If you laugh at something, you shrink the dragon.”
Her favorite punching bag, though, was always herself. “My mother used to look at me and say: ‘Looks don’t count. Now, get out of my sight, you big lump