Watch a bumbling Louis C.K. try to bed the then septuagenarian standup comic — with surprising results — on this 2011 episode of his FX comedy. (Just don’t talk about what you see: As Rivers notes in her grimly comic style, “Nobody likes necrophiliacs.”)
Rivers was occasionally accused of being "too mean" to celebrities on E!'s Fashion Police, but you could never accuse her of not being funny. This analysis of a Madonna nip slip sums her humor up perfectly: Not only does she say that it's "never the wrong time to do a breast self-examination,” but she also takes a shot at the aging pop star: "She just passed a generational milestone. I don't know if you know, but this year, the first guy that ever masturbated to a Madonna video started collecting social security."
Substitute Host on THE TONIGHT SHOW
While she was best known for her cutting brand of comedy, Rivers proved she could also bring out the best in a talk-show guest, as evidenced by this Q&A with Lucille Ball during one of Rivers’ many gigs subbing for Carson.
THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE
Like a heated lioness protecting her cub, Rivers rushed to daughter Melissa's side after she was booted from NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. "Poker players are trash, darling," she informed professional poker player Annie Duke, one of the two women who helped oust Melissa. As for the other competitor, Playboy model Brande Roderick, Rivers had but four words: "You're a stupid blonde." Watch… and be afraid.
THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW
Jump ahead to the 9:00 mark of this full episode of the seminal ’70s variety hour for a typically self-deprecating bit of standup from Rivers — “My husband said let me help you with the buttons [of a nightie], and I said ‘I’m naked!'”), then jump ahead to the 27:40 timestamp to see the comedienne skewer Valerie Harper’s hit sitcom Rhoda.
COMEDY CENTRAL ROAST OF JOAN RIVERS
If you're going to insult Joan Rivers for two straight hours, expect to get slapped (Kathy Griffin), have your droopy balls mocked (Carl Reiner) and have your naked body compared to "a mud slide" (Robin Quivers). Sure, Rivers could take it, but as seen in her 2009 Comedy Central roast, she was so much better at dishing it out.
THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW
Despite Rivers’ reputation for a caustic brand of comedy, she was equally scathing about her own looks, style and figure — right from the start of her career. Check out this bit of standup from a 1967 Ed Sullivan episode — where she discussed being the oldest single gal in Larchmont, NY — as a prime example.
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON
See the easy (and decidedly reverential) chemistry between Rivers and her mentor — prior to their infamous falling out — during a 1986 promotional appearance for her book Enter Talking. (Sample joke from Rivers about rocking a bikini in middle age: “You go wading and the top gets wet first!”)
ANDERSON COOPER 360
Rivers was never one to pull punches, even as a guest on a talk show. During this 2011 appearance on Anderson Cooper 360, she rushed to defend Ricky Gervais, following his controversial turn at host of the Golden Globes. "Look who's judging humor … the Hollywood Foreign Press Association," she pointed out. When Piers Morgan offered high praise to the esteemed committee, Rivers responded, "You can tell them that tomorrow … when they pump your gas."
THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS
The Late Show Starring… Joan Rivers?! Yes, it happened in the late '80s, and it was spectacular. Check out her first episode here, which featured appearances by little-known names like Elton John, Pee Wee Herman and Cher. (Yeah, Rivers ran with a pretty awesome crowd.)
THE JOAN RIVERS SHOW
Rivers also dabbled in daytime with The Joan Rivers Show, for which she nabbed a Daytime Emmy Award; and in typical Rivers fashion, she was always ahead of the curve. Behold this interview with designer Richie Rich, who explains what it means to be a "club kid" in the mid-90s. (Rosie would never.)
JOAN & MELISSA: JOAN KNOWS BEST?
Rivers invited us into her weird, wonderful world via WE tv's Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, and we can happily say we're forever scarred. For example, in the Season 4 premiere, it took less than 10 seconds for her to consider a dildo filled with her husband's ashes. (OK, so maybe — as the title's question mark implied — she didn't always know best.)
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK
We saw nearly every side of Rivers (good and bad) in her 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work — like in this scene, when she confronts a heckler who doesn't appreciate her mocking deaf people. "You are so stupid," she says. "[The point of] comedy is to make everybody laugh at everything and to deal with things, you idiot! My mother is deaf, you stupid son of a bitch!"
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON
Rivers got a taste of her own medicine when Carson set up an elaborate practical joke in which a rock-solid Margaret Thatcher impersonator relentlessly badgered the comic for her scathing jokes about the royal family. Click here to see a rare moment of Rivers getting flummoxed.
In the last two decades of her life, Rivers was a regular (and wacky) presence on QVC, selling jewelry and bric-a-brac from The Joan Rivers Collection. Click here and here to see two of her not-so-product-focused moments on the shopping channel.