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Legendary entertainer Joan Rivers passes at 81

The world has lost a great comic and entertainer in the fearlessly sharp-tongued Rivers.


Greg Seals


Posted on Sep 4, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 3:50 pm CDT

On Thursday, the world lost a legendary entertainer in one of its hardest-working comedians, Joan Rivers. Rivers’s only child, Melissa, announced that her 81-year-old mother had passed peacefully on Thursday afternoon at 1:17pm surrounded by loved ones and in the care of wonderful doctors and nurses. In a statement to the press, Melissa memorialized her mother’s delight in laughter and comedy.

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. 

The sharp-tongued comic was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York last week after complications from vocal cord surgery sent her into respiratory arrest. Though Rivers’ condition fluctuated during her hospitalization, many held out hope that the brassy personality would return to the mic soon. 

After the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was released, chronicling her life and career, she enjoyed a vibrant career resurgence. Most recently, Rivers’s turn lampooning celebrity fashions with her quick wit and sharp tongue as the anchor host of E!’s Fashion Police introduced her brilliance to a new generation of fans.

We’re very sad to share that Joan Rivers has passed away. Our hearts go out to her family.

— E!’s Fashion Police (@e_FashionPolice) September 4, 2014

Her co-hosts held faith till the end, taking to Twitter to send thoughts and prayers to their fearless leader.

Praying for @Joan_Rivers and @MelRivers. Even though Joan’s the strongest woman I know, every single prayer counts. I love you, Joan

— Giuliana Rancic (@GiulianaRancic) August 30, 2014

I love you @Joan_Rivers and hope to see you soon.

— George Kotsiopoulos (@GeorgeKotsi) September 1, 2014

4 the first time in years I got down on my knees & prayed tonight! I encourage U 2 do the same 4 @Joan_Rivers my grandma! #inconsolable

— Kelly Osbourne (@KellyOsbourne) August 30, 2014

Friends, actors, and fellow comedians were quick to pay their respects on social media to the unapologetic comic who triumphed during a time when entertainment was so male-dominated

A legend, a friend, a mentor, an icon, and wildly funny. One of a kind. RIP #JoanRivers @joan_rivers

— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) September 4, 2014

My friend Joan Rivers has passed away once again to quote Billy Crystal… There are no words. Bon Voyage Joan 😢

— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) September 4, 2014

Love Her or Hate Her, we’re gonna Miss JOAN RIVERS! I always Respected her go for broke humor. One of a kind.R.I.P.

— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers will always be a pioneer. She paved the way for a lot of comedians. I’m very sad she’s gone.

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers was a huge presence in American comedy forever. She was one of a kind and will be a great loss to all who loved humor. R.I.P.

— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) September 4, 2014

RIP Joan Rivers. Being publicly told that my dress is hideous will never feel quite as awesome. You will be truly missed.

— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers wouldn’t hesitate to make a sick joke about the passing of Joan Rivers and that is why I will miss her. RIP.

— Frank Conniff (@FrankConniff) September 4, 2014

Rivers talked about having led an “amazing life” in the second season premiere of Joan and Melissa, and how at peace she was with the idea of death—and, of course, one big joke. Skip 23 minutes into the video to watch the touching moment. 

Here’s to the actress and comedian at the curtain call of life’s “one big movie.”

Photo via shankbone/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 4, 2014, 4:11 pm CDT