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But there is little sign of the screaming banshee who yelled abuse at A-listers on the red carpet, where for eight years she hosted the Oscar arrivals. Entertainment channel’s Fashion Police show, relishing the sartorial missteps of the stars.

“The performers I know who are wonderful keep it for the stage,” she says.

A butler in a starched white jacket opens the door of the palatial apartment in Upper East Side, New York, that is home to Joan Rivers.

” and Rivers replies: “You just want to be loved, who cares why?” At another, she tells a booking agent over the phone: “I am a comedy icon. No one will ever take me seriously as an actress.” This from the woman who has won an Emmy, been nominated for a Tony, written 10 books, appeared in nine films and more than 60 television series, made countless celebrity appearances and sold 0 million worth of jewellery on the TV shopping channel, QVC.I don’t need, at this age, to walk into a room and have it be half full.” Later, she openly weeps, saying: “My career is as an actress. Rivers cut her teeth with New York’s theatrical elite.It was at a dinner party with Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg that Marilyn Monroe turned to Rivers – then 17 and in her first year at university – and said: “Men, they are all the same.“When Johnny Carson said, 'You are going to be a star’, my life changed that moment,” says Rivers, snapping her fingers. Immediately there were tensions between the owners, Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller, and Rosenberg.

Rivers then had a call from Murdoch saying: “The tail doesn’t wag the dog.” Rosenberg was fired, Rivers decided to go with him, and her show was cancelled. “As comedians, we are all laughing because life is so horrible,” she says.They are just stupid and they like big boobs.” Rivers wrote the line down in her diary and it became the title of one of her books. In those days it was very shocking.” She spent 18 years with Carson, but when she decided to leave to start her own show, it caused a rift with her mentor who never spoke to her again.From there, she “endured humiliation and deprivation” for almost 10 years “playing tawdry clubs, borscht-belt hotels, and Greenwich Village cabarets” before appearing, in 1968, on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the show that turned Carson into a figurehead for American comedy and which ran for 30 years. But they opened.” That period propelled her into the living rooms of America, and saw her performing her stand-up routine while seven months pregnant with her daughter, Melissa. In 1986, she and her husband, British television producer Edgar Rosenberg started work on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers which helped launch the Fox Network.Two years ago, she allowed film-makers Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg – the duo behind earlier acclaimed documentaries The Devil Came on Horseback, about genocide in Darfur, and The Trials of Darryl Hunt, about a man who spent 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit – to capture a particularly low period in her life, when work had almost entirely dried up.The film, called A Piece of Work and premiering at the Sheffield Documentary Festival on Wednesday, opens with uncomfortably close shots of Rivers’s surgery-enhanced face without any make-up.Joan Rivers, has been described as one of the smartest, funniest and nastiest people on television.