As comedy legend Joan Rivers was being laid to rest on September 7th, Chris Rock was at the Toronto Film Festival promoting his new movie, Top Five. But the comedian-filmmaker still made time for a passionate tribute to the late comic, calling Rivers "one of the greatest stand-up comedians to ever live" in a video chat with The Hollywood Reporter.
"I know people are like, 'Joan Rivers broke down all these barriers for women, blah blah blah,'" Rock said. "I think it's a disservice to even group her in any. . . She's better than [Don] Rickles; she's one of the best female stand-ups to ever live. No man ever said, 'Yeah, I want to go on after Joan.' No, Joan Rivers closed the show every night."
Rock praised Rivers' "show must go on" attitude toward performing, using the example of Rivers filming an episode of her Fox talk show right after her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide. Rock also praised her ability to stay relevant with her comedic references (and targets) up until her death at age 81.
"She was 81 years old," he said. "In the history of comedy, no comedian has ever been that old and still hip. Hey, I love [Bill] Cosby — slowing down a bit. Rickles — slowing down a bit. I know comedians 40 years younger than Joan Rivers that are still telling Reagan jokes and Clinton and all sorts of lame references that they should have thrown out years ago.
"Joan Rivers never hung on to anything. She's like, 'OK, I'm doing Liz Taylor jokes. Oh she's done? There must be a new fat bitch to make fun of.' She did not fucking play. She's like, 'I got Lindsay Lohan. What's Justin Bieber doing? She didn't give a fuck. She was the hippest comedian from the time she started to the day she died. So don't put Joan Rivers in a box – because she's like Mount Rushmore."
Rivers died on September 4th, following complications from a routine throat surgery. Her private funeral featured an array of celebrity friends – including David Letterman, Donald Trump and Howard Stern, the latter delivering the eulogy. "She fought the stereotype that women couldn't be funny," Stern said, according to People. "She was responsible for putting the red carpet into prime time."
The service opened with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus performing Broadway staple "Hey, Big Spender"; according to the The New York Times, the event also featured bagpipers and drummers from the New York Police Department performing "New York, New York" and "Give My Regards to Broadway."