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Can We Talk? Joan Rivers’ 10 Best Jokes

This collection of stand-up clips remind you why Rivers was considered the Queen of Comedy

Comedian Joan Rivers poses for a portrait in 1988 in Los Angeles, California.

Comedian Joan Rivers poses for a portrait in 1988 in Los Angeles, California.

Harry Langdon/Getty

The Brooklyn-born Joan Alexandra Molinsky may have dreamed of performing in the great plays on Broadway, but her alter ego Joan Rivers was built for comedy. Bold, brash, opinionated and at times as confessional as her hero Lenny Bruce, Rivers, who died on September 4th at 81, led the way for an entire generation of female stand-up comedians. To celebrate her influence, here are a handful of her best bits, ranging from most emblematic to most influential.

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Growing Old: ‘Live at the Apollo’ (2007)

Rivers didn't mind talking about sex or old age in the least. This tendency led to a number of graphic images that kept her audience squirming and laughing simultaneously: "The vagina drops. One morning, I woke up and thought, Why am I wearing a bunny slipper? And why is it gray?"

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The Classics: ‘Just for Laughs’ (2007)

There were a handful of evergreen bits that never got old for Rivers, and for good reason. Jokes like, "No man will ever put his hand up your dress looking for a library card," charmed Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in the Sixties and continued to bring audiences to attention even late in her career.

Joan Rivers at COmedy Roast

Comedian Joan Rivers onstage at the The Comedy Central Roast Of Joan Rivers held at CBS Studios on July 26, 2009 in Studio City, California.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Hail to the Queen: ‘The Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers’ (2009)

After taking it in the chops from fellow comics including Gilbert Gottfried and Greg Giraldo all evening, Rivers's anger is delightfully apparent here. She goes after Kathy Griffin ("You stole my act, you stole my gays and you stole the face of the Burger King.") and then characteristically declares that she won't ever retire: "Comedy needs Joan Rivers! I plan to be around for the next 100 years, just like herpes!"

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Offense Intended: ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’ (2009)

Rivers regularly caused offense, but remained unapologetic. (In the era of shaming comedians and demanding apologies, she is a touchstone.) In this clip from the excellent Rivers documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, she wrangles with a (former) fan when he doesn't like her jokes about deaf people. She tells him comedy is about processing the most difficult things in order to laugh about them: "We're going to talk about what it's like to have a man with one leg who lost it in World War II and then went back to get it, because that's littering."