Rivers, who most recently co-hosted E!’s “Fashion Police,” was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Aug. 28, after she stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery.
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933, Rivers broke into the spotlight with a 1965 guest appearance on “The Tonight Show.” Though she would go on to frequently guest-host for host Johnny Carson, Rivers was banned from the late-night show after she bailed on her permanent guest-host position in order to launch a competing show on Fox. While her show, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” was short-lived, her ban would last for more than two decades. Rivers returned to the “Tonight Show” again, earlier this year, briefly appearing with new host Jimmy Fallon on his first episode.
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During her decades-long career, Rivers would often turn her abrasive style on herself, frequently joking about her appearance and plastic surgery.
“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware,” Rivers once wisecracked.
Her second husband, film and television producer Edgar Rosenberg, also factored into her barbs.
But when her sharp-tongued humor was turned outward the comedian often found herself under fire from those who considered her jokes insensitive. In recent years, the comedian was criticized for joking about Grammy-winning singer Adele’s weight, as well as jokes about the Holocaust and the Ariel Castro kidnappings in Cleveland, Ohio.
Rivers was prone to dig her heels in when faced with criticism. Called out by the Anti-Defamation League foe her “vulgar and hideous” remarks about the Holocaust, Rivers replied, “This is the way I remind people about the Holocaust. I do it through humor.”
Tragedy struck Rivers’ life in 1987 when her second husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide. Weighed down by health issues — he suffered a heart attack in 1984 — he also grappled with emotional issues.
“He bottled everything up,” Rivers told People, “bottled it up and killed himself at 62.”
Rivers was nominated numerous times for a Daytime Emmy, winning in 1990 in the Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host category for “The Joan Rivers Show.”
Her other television credits include “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Hollywood Squares,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Nip/Tuck” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” She and her daughter Melissa co-starred on the reality series “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” and were longtime co-hosts of E!’s Oscars pre-awards coverage, while the elder Rivers went on to host red-carpet events for TV Guide Channel.
Throughout Rivers’ long career, she also branched out into writing, penning a dozen books, including the mock memoir “The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abramowitz” and the books “Diary of a Mad Diva,” “Still Talking” and “Bouncing Back: I’ve Survived Everything & and I Mean Everything & and You Can Too!” As a recording artist, Rivers was nominated for a Grammy award for her comedy album “What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?”
She also had a successful fashion and jewelry line called the Joan Rivers Classics Collection, which is a top seller on QVC.
Rivers is survived by her daughter, Melissa.