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The Iconic Wit of Joan Rivers, in 15 Quotes

Can we talk? There’s no denying that Joan Rivers left behind quite the storied legacy — including the aforementioned catchphrase, from her eponymous daytime talk show. Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, Rivers was sharp-witted, opinionated, and, as her late mentor and friend Johnny Carson declared on The Tonight Show in 1965, “a star.”

Rivers got her start doing the comedy club circuit in Greenwich Village alongside comedic giants including Richard Pryor and George Carlin. She was an alum of the famed Second City in Chicago, and often attributed the development of her voice and comedic style to the training she received there. “[I learned] that I didn’t have to talk down in my humor,” she has said of her time at Second City. “I was really born as a comedian [there].” Rivers’ iconic brand of brash, unfiltered sass has since inspired the likes of Amy Schumer, Ali Wong, Sarah Silverman, and Tiffany Haddish.

After becoming a regular guest on Carson’s late-night show, Rivers even — controversially — became the first woman to host a late-night network talk show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, in 1986. That move led to her falling out with Carson (the two shows had competing time slots), and she was famously banned from his show through the end of his tenure as host. Many years later, she would translate her rapid-fire humor into a daytime television show, The Joan Rivers Show, which introduced her blunt sense of humor to a whole new demographic of viewers.

Rivers’ popularity continued to soar, and in the mid-1990s, she and her daughter Melissa began to establish themselves as red carpet regulars, interviewing celebrities with candor and tongue-in-cheek snark. It’s been said that the pair’s off-the-cuff style influenced much of today’s red carpet coverage, where celebrities and interviewers can get real and anything goes.

In her later years, Rivers reinvented herself once more, becoming a top-selling jewelry, clothing, and beauty product designer for QVC. Amid all that, she even found time to author 12 bestselling books, the last of which was Diary of a Mad Diva, published just two months before her unexpected death in September 2014. Here, we’ve rounded up 15 quotes from the red carpet queen herself, each one just as memorable and witty as she was.

I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.

Never be afraid to laugh at yourself. After all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.

I am not into exercise. If God wanted me to bend over, he would put diamonds on the floor.

People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.

I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I’d look like without plastic surgery.

You know you're getting old when work is a lot less fun and fun is a lot more work.

My daughter and I are very close, we speak every single day, and I call her every day and I say the same thing: “Pick up, I know you’re there.”

The fashion magazines are suggesting that women wear clothes that are “age appropriate.” For me that would be a shroud.

You know you’ve reached middle age when you’re cautioned to slow down by your doctor, instead of by the police.

Looking 50 is great — if you’re 60.

I must admit I’m nervous about getting Alzheimer’s. Once it hits, I might tell my best joke and never know it.

At my funeral, I want Meryl Streep crying in five different accents.

Thank God we're living in a country where the sky's the limit, the stores are open late, and you can shop in bed thanks to television.

I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes — and six months later you have to start all over again.

If you’re going to die, die interesting.

Photo credit: Tribune Content Agency LLC/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Joyce Chen
Joyce Chen is a writer, editor, and community builder based in Seattle, Washington.
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