According to TMZ, Joan Rivers -- who made the world laugh for over 50 years with her jokes, put-downs and one-liners -- has died in NYC ... a week after her heart suddenly stopped beating during vocal cord surgery. 

She was 81.

Joan's daughter Melissa Rivers took her mom off life support so she could pass comfortably in a private room. 

Rivers is widely credited for opening doors for countless female comedians. She broke through in a big way during her appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

She also famously enraged Carson by accepting a gig to host a competing late night show on FOX. Carson never spoke to her again.

Rivers was born in 1933 -- she worked as a writer and fashion consultant before entering show biz as a stand-up comic in the early '60s. She was famously self-deprecating often self-critical of her looks and her marriage to Edgar Rosenberg who committed suicide in 1987.  

She was universally adored by fellow comedians, including fellow legend Don Rickles, who once said about her ... "Joan is not only a very intelligent lady, but extremely masterful at comedy timing. Sharing the stage with her has always been a joy for me."