Comedy icon Joan Rivers died Thursday at age 81, following throat surgery complications. In addition to being a comedic wrecking ball with her stand-up, books and fashion commentary, she’s also one of the greatest late night guests in TV history. Fittingly, on Thursday night, just about everyone in the talk show business paid tribute, including Rivers’ longtime friend David Letterman.
In the above clip, Letterman talks about Rivers’ massive influence on female comedians. “The force and power of her comedy was overwhelming,” he says. “Joan Rivers, ladies and gentleman. We’re sorry she’s gone.”
Conan O’Brien also took time from his show to reflect on Rivers’ legacy, reflecting back on the late comic’s water-cooler-worthy Tonight Show guest-host spots for Johnny Carson. “Everyone would howl with laughter,” O’Brien said, “and the next day they’d talk about it.”
“She never lost her edge,” added guest Chris Hardwick, who talked about his recent friendship with Rivers.
Jon Stewart dedicated his Daily Show-closing “Moment of Zen” segment to Rivers, airing a clip from Rivers’ 1967 stand-up set from The Ed Sullivan Show. “There are few people in my business that you could say are – or were – actually groundbreaking talents,” Stewart said. “Joan Rivers was one of them.”
Jimmy Kimmel honored Rivers’ dedication to her comedy craft, marveling at how she never lost her edge over the years. The host also showed a clip from one of her Jimmy Kimmel Live! interviews, in which she joked about wanting her grandson to be gay so that he would be excited to hear she knew Judy Garland.
“The good news is there is less pressure for him to be gay now,” Kimmel cracked. “There is less pressure for all of us to be gay now. We will miss you, Joan.”
Craig Ferguson also took a more light-hearted approach in his brief tribute, referencing Rivers’ skills as a fashion critic: “I just hope that when Joan meets the man upstairs, he’s wearing something she can insult.”
Seth Meyers praised Rivers’ underrated skills as a writer – and her ability to find humor even in the darkest situations. “I wish she were here right now because if she were here right now, she would make a joke about how she just passed away,” he said. “And she would get away with it – because it would be really funny.”
And a choked-up Jimmy Fallon took a minute to reflect on a sweet moment he shared with Rivers, when she gave him a smooch during his Tonight Show debut.
“It was really emotional and really nice,” Fallon said. “I don’t want to show a clip because I don’t think it will do her justice. . . We loved her. We will definitely miss her.”