×

Joan Rivers Talks About Her Triumphant Return To NBC’s ‘Tonight’

Joan Rivers is slated to appear on NBC’s venerable “Tonight” show this evening, the second time the veteran comedienne has graced the late-night mainstay with her presence in just the space of a few weeks.

Before making a cameo on Jimmy Fallon’s first night, however, she hadn’t turned up on the program for 26 years – about “four noses ago,” in her estimation.

“The last time I was on the show, Melissa was in diapers,” Rivers quipped in an interview after taping her appearance for this evening’s episode of “Tonight,” referring to her daughter and longtime co-star. “Now, I’m in diapers.”

Younger viewers may not realize the import of  Joan Rivers turning up on the “Tonight” screen, but there was a time when the comic was an integral part of the workings of the wee-hours institution. Starting in 1983, Rivers was the show’s permanent guest host, substituting regularly whenever Johnny Carson wanted.

The achievement marked a crowning moment in her career, but she was soon exiled from the throne.   She departed the program in 1986 after getting an offer from a then-nascent Fox to host a rival latenight show. Carson was insulted, claiming at the time he had never been informed of the venture. Rivers was, in her own words, “banned, banned, banned” from the show – a condition that would continue under Carson’s successor, Jay Leno.

Her absence from the Leno era ,”wasn’t for lack of asking. I don’t know what his problem was,” she said. “I don’t know, and you want to know something? I don’t care.”

In recent years, Rivers had been making steady visits to Jimmy Fallon’s “Late Night” – seven times during his tenure on that other program. As producers geared up for Fallon’s tenure on “Tonight” to start, Rivers recalled, “they called me up and said, ‘We want you for the first show,’ and it was so great. I’m so happy.”

Her return to the program offers “a great lesson, a great show-business lesson: You keep going, and things turn around and things come back, and it’s an amazing business because of that. I was so banned from late night, but I managed to survive.” She cited her bevy of current projects, including  the fourth season of “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” which debuts Saturday; “Fashion Police” on E!; and “In Bed With Joan,” a half-hour “no holds barred” chat show for digital venues.

Many members of her current audience “don’t know who Carson was,” she said, “don’t care who Carson was.”

She said she appreciateswhat Fallon brings to “Tonight.” which she called an “institution.” Fallon, she said, offers “a different show. It’s much hipper” and Fallon “is so in tune with the popular culture.”

Her time on “Tonight” has prompted some reflection:  “It’s really a very good moment for me, a very good moment for me,” said Rivers. “And I’m very appreciative, and very aware of it.”

More TV

  • Al Burton

    Al Burton, 'Jeffersons' and 'Diff’rent Strokes' Producer, Dies at 91

    Television producer and executive Al Burton, known for his work on “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” died Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, California. He was 91. Burton leaves behind a six-decade legacy of hit television shows that also included “One Day at a Time,” “Silver Spoons,” “Square Pegs” and “Facts of Life.” However, long [...]

  • Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal

    Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal at WarnerMedia

    Dwayne Wade is bouncing his way into WarnerMedia’s court. The retired NBA All Star has signed a multi-faceted, multi-year deal with the company, including a development deal via his 59th & Prairie Entertainment production banner. Part of the deal sees Wade sign on as a commentator at Turner Sports. He is set to make appearances [...]

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

  • EVIL is a psychological mystery that

    CBS Renews 'Evil,' Orders Full Seasons of Four Other Freshman Shows

    CBS is doubling down on all its new shows. The network has renewed “Evil” for a second season, and handed out full-season orders to its other four freshman series, namely “All Rise,” “Carol’s Second Act,” “The Unicorn,” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” “Evil” is set to conclude its 13-episode first season (creators Michelle and Robert King [...]

  • Jamie Lee Curtis

    Jamie Lee Curtis to Produce Military Drama With Put Pilot Order at Fox

    Jamie Lee Curtis is teaming up with April Fitzsimmons and Berlanti Productions for a drama project that has received a put pilot order at Fox. Titled “Chain of Command,” the one-hour project follows a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn’t [...]

  • Michael MannLACMA: Art and Film Gala,

    TV News Roundup: Michael Mann to Direct and Executive Produce HBO Max's 'Tokyo Vice'

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO Max names MIchael Mann as a director and executive producer of “Tokyo Vice” and Chip and Joanna Gaines announce the first original series coming to the couple’s Magnolia Network. DATES Netflix announced a six-episode docuseries centered on Nasty Cherry, the latest all-female group signed to Charli XCX’s label will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content