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Late-night talk show hosts salute Joan Rivers

Everyone had something touching to say about the long-time comedian.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Sep 5, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 3:43 pm CDT

As word spread of Joan Rivers’s death Thursday, the late-night talk show hosts took time out to share their memories of the comedian.

Rivers was a staple with the late-night circuit, and her death clearly affected the many hosts who spoke kindly of her both in their monologues. The news came early enough that they were able to address it on Thursday’s show, and they were even able to speak about her with some of their guests, some who knew and were influenced by Rivers themselves.

She famously made her first appearance on The Tonight Show for the first time after she was banned 26 years ago, and Jimmy Fallon spoke to his audience about getting a kiss from Rivers when she showed up for his first show and encouraged them to watch her documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

“It was really emotional and really nice,” Fallon said as he choked up. “I don’t want to show a clip because I don’t think it will do her justice. We loved her. We will definitely miss her.”

Chris Hardwick was already scheduled to appear on Conan when the news broke, and like many, he was broken up about it. He had her on as a guest on the Nerdist Podcast two years ago. He told Conan O’Brien about one of the times she called him to ask about how the Internet works, while O’Brien tried to explain what an event it was in America when Rivers guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Carson.

David Letterman has the longest tenure in late-night, so he had many memories of Rivers over the years. He spoke highly of her high work ethic and her no-apologies attitude to comedy, calling her “a real pioneer for other women” looking to be comedians.

“And talk about about guts—she would come out here and sit in this chair and say some things that were unbelievable, just where you would have to swallow pretty hard… the force of her comedy was overpowering.”

Jimmy Kimmel did his part by speaking fondly of Rivers in his monologue, but he and Sarah Silverman figured that she would want them to be funny. They were sentimental at first, echoing the thought of many in that even after living 81 years, Rivers wasn’t done yet.

And then came the insults, because they figured that’s what Rivers would have wanted—laughter. Melissa Rivers said as much when she stated her mother’s final wish.

Both Seth Meyers and Craig Ferguson kept their tributes short. Ferguson called it “a sad day for us in the comedy community” while Meyers talked about her appearance on his show last month, saying that he had never sat next to anyone who told so many jokes as quickly as she did.

Photo via Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube

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*First Published: Sep 5, 2014, 11:27 am CDT