×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

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.”

More TV

  • Tim Cook Oprah Winfrey Steven Spielberg

    Apple Sits Out This Emmy Season, but Get Ready for a Frenzy of Contenders in 2020

    Apple won’t be entering the Emmy race this year — but get ready for 2020. The tech giant’s not-so-surprise launch of its new Apple TV+ video service on Monday included a hefty roster of top producing and acting talent that will immediately make the service an awards contender when it launches in the fall. That [...]

  • Oprah Apple TV Plus

    Apple's Cavalcade of Stars Sets High Expectations (Column)

    Apple’s March 25 conference announcing various new services — including their upcoming passel of video content — was heavy on grandeur and light on specifics. Company CEO Tim Cook described the company’s move into television as part of an ongoing commitment not merely to diversion and customer satisfaction but to social change. “Apple has always [...]

  • Art Malik2017 Costa Book of The

    Hannah Simone's ABC Pilot Casts Art Malik in Lead Role (EXCLUSIVE)

    Hannah Simone’s comedy pilot at ABC has cast one of its lead roles. Variety has learned exclusively that Art Malik has signed on to star opposite Simone in the single-camera comedy. In the project, Hannah (Simone) and her Indian-American immigrant father Sid (Malik) have always been close, but after she admits to herself that she’s [...]

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    Apple Unveils First Look Footage From Its Original Shows (Watch)

    At a special event in Cupertino, Apple unveiled its Apple TV+ streaming service, and with it a short clip of some footage from its slate of upcoming original shows. One of the main originals teased was “The Morning Show,” a series which “offers an inside look at the lives of the people who help America [...]

  • 'Pretty Little Liars' presentation

    I. Marlene King Exits Warner Bros. TV for Overall Deal at 20th Century Fox

    I. Marlene King has signed a new multi-year deal at 20th Century Fox Television, exiting her longtime studio home of Warner Bros. Television. King will develop, write, produce, and direct new projects for network, cable, and streaming under the new deal via her Long Lake Media banner. Long Lake’s executive vice president of development Lauren [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett. CR: Mathieu Young

    '9-1-1' and 'The Resident' Renewed for Third Seasons at Fox

    Both “9-1-1” and “The Resident” will be returning for third seasons on Fox, Variety has learned. The news comes as the two shows, which are paired together on Monday nights, are on course to finish with solid ratings in their sophomore seasons. “’9-1-1 redefined’ what a procedural series can be, consistently delivering edge-of-your-seat emergencies, mixed with emotional [...]

  • Studios Spurn WGA Request to Ban

    Studios Reject WGA Request to Ban Non-Franchised Talent Agents

    Studios have rejected a request by the Writers Guild of America to bar talent agents if the current franchise agreement expires on April 7, saying it could expose them to extensive legal damages. The WGA will hold five days of member voting starting March 27 on a proposed “code of conduct” eliminating agency packaging fees [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content