Joan Rivers Returns To ‘Tonight Show’ After Decades-Long Ban

jimmy fallon joan rivers

With a new host behind the desk, Joan Rivers has returned to “Tonight.”

After an exile of nearly 30 years, Joan Rivers appeared on NBC’s “Tonight Show” Monday night. The turn on the ‘Tonight’ stage marks the first time the veteran comedienne has surfaced on the program since Johnny Carson banned her after she left a stint as his permanent guest host to lead a competing program on a then-upstart Fox network. Jimmy Fallon,  the new host, has apparently lifted an injunction that has been in place since the late 1980s.

Rivers was one of a parade of celebrities who greeted new host Jimmy Fallon during an early segment of the program, which was  taped early Monday evening. Rivers walked on to the set just after Tracy Morgan, stopped for a moment to wish Fallon well and smile for the audience, and then left the stage, to be replaced by Seth Rogen.

Rivers’ appearance on Fallon’s debut was especially meaningful as it came 49 years to the day after her first appearance on Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

“It was a double thrill for me to help welcome Jimmy on his first night. The program brought me great luck, and I know it well do the same for him,” Rivers said.  “He’s the consummate entertainer whose reign as host, I predict, will surpass any of his predecessors.

“Being in the studio brought back the most wonderful, wonderful memories of the night that jump-started my career,” Rivers says. “So when people ask me, ‘why was last night different from all other nights?’ I’ll tell them that it certainly beats Passover!”

Rivers once held more sway on the program. In September, 1983, she was named Johnny Carson’s permanent guest host. Riding a wave of popularity, she departed the program in 1986 after getting the offer from Fox. Carson at the time claimed she had never told him about the venture and had to learn of it elsewhere. Rivers never appeared again on “Tonight” during his tenure, or during that of Jay Leno, an NBC spokeswoman for “Tonight” confirmed Monday evening.

The Fox program Rivers would go on to helm, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” led to tragedy for her family. When she and her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, proved to be at loggerheads with Fox executives over the direction of the new latenight series, the network fired them both. Rosenberg would commit suicide within months.

Since that time, Rivers has held forth as the host of a daytime talk show and enjoyed stints on E!, TV Guide Channel, We TV, “Hollywood Squares” and more. Nothing she did, however, got her back on the set of “Tonight.”

Fallon may be out to mend fences. The entertainer has espoused a hosting philosophy of having fun, celebrating and being a fan.

Of the end of her banishment, Rivers said: “It’s about time! I’ve been sitting in a taxi outside NBC with the meter running since 1987.”

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  1. MOMODERATE says:

    I’m one of those “old” people (age 64), who is absolutely THRILLED that Jimmy Fallon has taken over the show. I think he is an amazing talent, and I get all of his jokes. You’re only as old as you feel, and sadly, some people are old well before their age categorizes them that way.

  2. jeanna says:

    yeah love her and jimmy get a skit togewther like he has with JT maybe not the singing part but they both are funny

  3. barbara says:

    good for you Fallon. lift the ban. What abou
    t the ban Nixon set in place, its also being lifted all over the states

  4. John Clark says:

    Joan Rivers is the poster-child for survivability, ambition, balls, and talent. Any other Commercial Business, and she’d have a cause of action against NBC and the “does” behind her banishment, but hey, this is “”Show Business”. As for her personal tragedy, how come there’s no mention of the name Barry Diller? Yes, some of us have long memories, and read her book which tells the whole story.

  5. John says:

    Can’t stand the trash from Rivers mouth. I may never watch Fallon because he did let her return.

    • Teresa Garner says:

      Joan single-handedly entertained millions of fans every year for DECADES! She is a beloved comedian and I literally stood up and cheered when she took the stage. I get the feeling your comment has more to do with the fact that she is a woman who speaks her mind.

    • Young Boy Stream says:

      You need help.

  6. I’m a fan of Joan but it’s not the same stage, so it’s not really the same. And I’m sure Johnny had his reasons, Joan acts like she is completely innocent of some horrible crime against her, I doubt it is that black and white. It’s not even like she has needed these late-night talk shows, she’s kept herself reasonably famous and visible since it happened, she should thank her stars and move on.

  7. Karen says:

    Joan u r a good sport,and Jimmy tons of luck with the show!

  8. Anna Devane says:

    Having Joan Rivers on……Way to show Carson all that love, respect and admiration you go on about!

    Whether you like Leno or not at least he understood loyalty to Carson. You don’t backstab someone and pretend it’s their problem.

    • Faith says:

      Who back stabbed? Did Fallon ever say hey if you give me the job I will continue with the childish grudge Carson then Leno became a part of? NOPE! It was Carson’s problem! She never did anything to Leno or Fallon! Are you high? Egotism on all sides kept the ban in place. It is nice that the show gets a brand new start. It will be interesting to see how it continues with Fallon at the helm. You need to grow up a little.

    • This was a grudge by Johnny Carson, not Leno or Fallon. When Jay Leno officially took over, he should of ended the ban on Joan Rivers. And this is coming from someone who does not enjoy Joan River’s type of comedy.

    • Lonny Mouse says:

      You don’t meet all your goals by blind loyalty to ancient grudges. The show is his now.

  9. KT says:

    I am very well aware of the Tonight Show history and Joan, and while I ultimately do not care about her, I think this is great.

    Fallon is such a breath of fresh air. Screw the archaic history. It’s possible to respect the show but still make it interesting and new…ish.

  10. I’d admire anyone that has been on any of the Tonight Shows as a guest or a host. Even Steve Allen. My bucket list is just to be able to do a few minutes on there someday. My Motto: “Don’t Ever Give up and don’t ever die!”

  11. Itsyomomma says:

    I think you should look up the word stint. Upon reading this article I had no clue why Joan Rivers was banned. I had to wiki it. Just letting you know.

    • Daisy says:

      I don’t think they’re the ones that need to look up the word “stint”. Their use of it was correct. I’m also not sure why you had to wiki the story since it’s clearly stated in the article why she was banned. She had a guest gig. She made a deal with a competing network. Johnny got pissed. The End.

    • Stint: “a person’s fixed or allotted period of work: his varied career included a stint as a magician.”

      There is nothing wrong with the usage of ‘stint’ in the article.

  12. I wish Jimmy Fallon the best. I think it’s going to be hard for him to be popular with older folks, who drive Tonight Show’s ratings. It’s why Conan didn’t work out and it’s why Leno did amazingly well in that time slot. A lot of people don’t like Jay Leno (particularly the younger demographic) and I think it’s because they want more edgy humor while Leno is more about speaking to all people, not just college kids and 20 and 30-something hipsters and slackers.

    Fallon is more “general humor” and a little more mainstream than Conan, I’d say, but just how much he can expand his audience out from there is an open question.

  13. Joe Cool says:

    It’s been downhill since Carson’s leaving . . . .I haven’t enjoyed it since. So happy I was able to enjoy real talent in Johnny Carson.

  14. Rafa says:

    “Already done with Fallon?” hahaha.
    Never mind. He’s a young talented man and we need guys like him. So stay with Leno in the past and let Jimmy do what he does best. Entertain.

  15. Andy Snuts says:

    Well I’m already done with Fallon

    • Andy Snuts says:

      He has absolutely no talent his jokes are weak & has doesn’t even know how to deliver the punchline. He’s a waste of a great job like The Tonight Show

    • Agreed. We’ve given him chance after chance and he’s squandered every one of them. He may be the worst host of the Tonight Show since Jack Paar. Do you remember those heady days when Fallon was first starting out and we thought we saw such promise? What were we THINKING!?!

      • big daddy D says:

        After eating your pudding and putting your teeth in the glass before you go to bed.

      • Melanie Goforth says:

        What are you thinking now? Jimmy Fallon is lining up to be one of the best hosts The Tonight Show has ever seen. He’s humble, respectful, and knows where he came from. He’s an amazing comedian, much better than Jay Leno would ever dream of being. Sucks that you don’t know talent when you see it, I’ll be over here witnessing Mr. Fallon make TV history while you channel surf for an hour…

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