Comedian Joan Rivers insisted she had no plans to bow to lawyers demanding she apologise for a controversial quip about the ordeal of three women held prisoner for years in Cleveland.

Attorneys acting for two victims of by Ariel Castro have called on the funny woman to recant remarks in which Rivers, 80, compared a problem guest room to being locked up in a dungeon at Castro's Cleveland home.

The storm kicked off when Rivers moaned on the NBC channel about conditions in her daughter's guest room, telling viewers: "Those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space."

Following a predictable chorus of outrage in which lawyers for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus called her remarks "a new low", Rivers spoke about them again to website TMZ.

But if critics were expecting an apology they were disappointed, with the venerable comedian saying: "They got to live rent free for more than a decade."

She was similarly unrepentant when confronted by a Cleveland paper called The Plain Dealer, saying: "I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke. There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That's what I do. Calm down. "

Berry, DeJesus and a third woman, Michelle Knight, managed to escape last year, after years in captivity. Their kidnapper, Ariel Castro, hanged himself in jail after being sentenced to life in prison.

Rivers stoked controversy earlier this year by mocking Kim Kardashian and Kayne West's baby daughter North.

"That baby is ugly. I've never seen a six-month-old so desperately in need of a waxing," it was reported.

Rivers is no stranger to controversy, after she sparked a Holoucaust storm by quipping about Heidi Klum: "The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens." She later said her husband's relations were killed at Auschwitz by the Nazi regime.