Joan Rivers returns to ‘Tonight Show,’ still grateful to Johnny Carson


Joan Rivers returned to “The Tonight Show” Thursday after being banned for nearly three decades.

The 80-year-old comic was welcomed by host Jimmy Fallon for her first sit-down interview in 26 years since a feud with former host Johnny Carson made her persona non grata at the network.

Carson is credited with discovering the sharp-tongued Rivers in the ‘60s. He made her a writer on his show, and she even dedicated her book “Enter Talking” to him. But when she got her own competing, late-night talker on Fox in 1986, the pair fell out and never spoke again.

Rivers, who’d been a regular, hadn’t been seen on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” since, because Fallon’s predecessors Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien also adhered to the embargo.


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However, Rivers, made an appearance on Fallon’s first episode back in February to take part in his star-studded $100 bet.

Rivers, who stars in her family reality series “Joan & Melissa,” said being back on “Tonight” was “very special” to her and proceeded to make the signature off-color jabs that are typical of her “Fashion Police” gig on E!, a subsidiary of NBC Universal.

The raspy-voiced funnywoman got her appearance started by apologizing to Fallon for being late, blaming a pilot for landing at the wrong airport, then proceeded to make a Holocaust wisecrack. (Sadly, this wasn’t her first).

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“They had sent this big stretch Mercedes limo for us and it got stuck, it wouldn’t move for 2½ hours and I’m thinking, you know, the Germans killed 6 million Jews, you can’t fix a ... carburetor?!” she said, making her typical exasperated face.


Fallon got visibly uncomfortable and even put his face in his hands (a gesture Questlove also had to make later).

“Welcome back to the network, Joan,” Fallon said weakly.

“It’s very special for me to be back, seriously, very, very special” she said, proceeding to make quips about vagina rings, Bruce Jenner and “ethnic people” -- jokes that had the audience and Fallon’s other guest, “Noah” star Russell Crowe, near tears.

“They banned me, I think it’s because you get old,” she said, segueing into another cringe-worthy joke about her aging ladyparts.

Fallon also brought out a 1965 photo of Rivers and Carson on her second episode of “The Tonight Show.” It turns out that’s the night Carson told her she was “going to be a star,” she said. She had no harsh words for the man who discovered her.

Watch her get nostalgic with Carson here.


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