Comedian Joan Rivers Dies, Aged 81

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U.S. actress Joan Rivers, October 5, 2009.Credit: AFP

REUTERS - Comedian Joan Rivers died on Thursday in New York a week after suffering cardiac arrest during an outpatient medical procedure, her daughter said in a statement. She was 81.

"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17 P.M. surrounded by family and close friends," Melissa Rivers said.

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The comedian, who was known for her no-holds-barred brand of humor, had a lengthy career and most recently was host of cable television channel E!'s "Fashion Police," commenting on the unfortunate red carpet choices of Hollywood celebrities.

"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," Melissa Rivers added.

Rivers stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest in New York last week during the procedure on her vocal cords at a Manhattan clinic. She was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where she was put on life support.

The husky-voiced, Brooklyn-born Rivers went into stand-up comedy after writing sketches for television's "The Ed Sullivan Show." She later became a regular guest host for Johnny Carson on NBC's "The Tonight Show" and won fame for her scathing put-downs and was known for asking, "Can we talk?"

The clinic where Rivers had the outpatient surgery on her vocal cords on Aug. 28 is under scrutiny from health officials, a spokeswoman for New York's state health department said on Thursday.

A telephone message seeking comment from the clinic was not immediately returned.

Rivers, who launched her career in the 1950s, drew attention in recent weeks for her vigorous defenses of Israel during its war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"Joan Rivers brought laughter to millions around the world and was proud of her Jewish heritage and a vocal supporter of the State of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday night. "We will miss her deeply and we send our heartfelt condolences to her family."

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