Controversial Comedy Trailblazer Joan Rivers Dead At 81

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Comedienne Joan Rivers has passed at the age of 81.

“I’m 81—I could go at any moment,” remarked Rivers during a comedy set in New York City the night before she was initially hospitalized (August 28). “I could fall over right here and you all could say, ‘I was there!’”

The pioneering stand-up comic, talk show shot, queen of gossip and smart-mouthed fashionista burst into national prominence with a 1965 guest spot on The Tonight Show and eventually became one of Johnny Carson’s regular guests and his permanent substitute host. Her career weathered numerous storms and impacted generations of fans and most importantly, female comedy acts like Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman and more.

“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.”