Joan Rivers died this afternoon after a weeklong hospitalization, during which she was placed in a medically-induced coma and then on life support. “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
In that spirit, and in celebration of Joan’s legendary wit, here are five of her most memorable television appearances from the 1960s and 1970s. While Rivers may been best known in her later years as a TV personality and red carpet host, her career started with her smart, sharp stand-up comedy. Watching some of these clips, it’s remarkable how ahead of her time her jokes were.
Here’s Rivers talking about the trials of dating and singledom on The Ed Sullivan Show in April, 1967.
“A girl, you’re 30 years old, you’re not married: she’s an old maid,” she tells the crowd. “A man, he’s 90 years old, he’s not married: he’s a catch.”
“I was the last girl in Larchmont,” she later yells, “Do you know how that feels?”
In January, 1966 Rivers appeared on The Sammy Davis Show hosted by Johnny Carson, where she talks about her new marriage to Edgar Rosenberg.
Her delivery, in which she sets up a joke whose punchline is a deadpanned second sentence, feels remarkably current, even though it’s from nearly 50 years ago,
Here she is with her classic self-deprecating humor in November, 1972 on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where she made her mark as a comic.
She jokes that her daughter Melissa’s first words were, “Will you shut up already?”
In 1974, she did a stand-up routine on the The Carol Burnett Show, where her personal, conspiratorial tone has the audience erupting with laughter.
“I was such a dog, to get me down the aisle they threw a bone,” she says.
We’ll miss you, Joan.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.