Deborah Norville Reflects on Her Dear Friend, Joan Rivers

Deborah Norville Reflects on Her Dear Friend, Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers and INSIDE EDITION’s Deborah Norville were close friends to the very end.

Norville said, “She was sharper than people half her age, a third of her age. She shouldn't have gone this soon and she shouldn't have gone this way, but she wasn't afraid of going.”

See More of Deborah's Interview

Joan was a true pioneer, a female standup comic who broke ground with daring routines that always brought down the house.

In one standup skit she said, "Dress by Oscar de la Renta. Body by Oscar Mayer!"

She was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933 and took her agent's last name, Rivers, when she went into show business.

Woody Allen was an early inspiration, and so was Phyllis Diller's self-deprecating humor. But Joan did it with, as she put it, "With style in a little black dress and pearls."

After years of doing standup, Joan reinvented herself and brought her wicked wit to the red carpet.

When she first saw the engagement ring Kevin Costner gave his wife-to-be, Christine Baumgartner, Joan said, “Oh, you are a fool! It should be four times this size. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Sometimes, her humor could be so biting it could hurt.

Comic legend Jerry Lewis revealed just weeks ago on SiriusXM radio that he had a feud with Joan that has lasted more than 30 years over a joke.   

Lewis said, “I always feel bad when somebody passes away, except if it was Joan Rivers. All she said was ‘Jerry Lewis has to be thankful that he has the telethon because it helps his career’ and then she went on and was even more salty.”

Joan, always going for the laugh, was quick to hit back, saying “Oh, look who is back from the dead.”  

Deborah Norville said, “She was funny as Hell but she never meant to hurt people, but if you got hurt in the process, well, that's the reality of comedy.”

Her success brought her amazing wealth. She leaves an estate worth a estimated $150 million. She lived in an ornate Upper East Side apartment valued at $30 million.

But her life was not all about laughter.

Joan spoke about her own mortality in a candid conversation, without makeup, with her daughter, Melissa on their reality TV show, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best.

Joan told Melissa, "If I died this morning, nobody would say, 'So young.' I have had an amazing life, if it ended right now, amazing life. You have been wonderful and we had a great ride together."

Norville said, “She made sure Melissa, and the people who needed to know these things, were aware of what she considered a quality of life. When it became apparent that she was not going to be the life Joan could reasonably expect to have, she had told Melissa what to do.”

And right to the end, she was as outspoken as ever.

In July, she walked off a CNN interview when she was questioned about wearing fur. She said, "Stop it with 'And you do this! And you're mean!' You are not the one to interview a person who does humor!"

She made headlines in April with a wisecrack comparing her daughter Melissa’s guest room with the Cleveland House of Horrors, saying, "Those women in the basement in Cleveland had more space."

Before the end, Melissa made sure Joan’s friends got the chance to say goodbye and thank her for all the laughter.

Norville said, “To the end, she made us smile, because we all laughed at her jokes, but she made us learn. She was an amazing lady.”  

Related Coverage