Joan Rivers Talks Lifting Of ‘Tonight Show’ 26-Year Ban

Joan Rivers has been missing from “The Tonight Show” for 26 years, but that will all change tonight when Jimmy Fallon welcomes her to his show.

The always outlandish and funny Joan, who stopped to chat about “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?,” gave Billy Bush and Kit Hoover a taste of what fans can expect on Access Hollywood Live!

“Frankly, I don’t care what Johnny thinks because, you know, who cares. He’s talking to David Brenner now,” Joan told Billy when asked what the late Carson might think of the ban being lifted, referring to frequent “Tonight Show” guest Brenner, who died in March.

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“It’s so amazing to be coming back. The thing is, you walk in and a lot of the same people are here. The elevator man, who used to flirt with me… He’s still flirting! [But], he was having a stroke,” Joan joked. “It’s very exciting. It’s fabulous to be back.”

Joan explained that ban went into effect when she left her stint as the “Tonight Show” permanent guest host for her own show.

“I left to do my own show at Fox and I don’t think [Carson] ever thought a woman would leave. I think if you’re funny, you can be a man, a woman, a dog. For some reason, I left and I was banned from his show forever,” she told Billy and Kit.

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And the ban continued after Carson retired.

“And then Leno – that moron – for some reason, kept the ban going for 26 years,” she said.

Billy asked Joan if she contacted Carson when she decided to exit, which Carson’s longtime lawyer Henry Buskin claimed she did not in his 2013 book.

“Damn right, I called him twice,” Joan said. “And he hung up on me both times… the first phone call, he didn’t know, I called him and said, ‘Johnny, I just want you to know, I’m leaving the show,’ [and then I heard,] click.”

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Joan told Billy and Kit that her former boss also snubbed her around town.

“It was so silly. I would see him in restaurants and he would walk past me,” she recalled. “I was fired from Fox and my husband committed suicide and he won – if you think in those terms – and you’d think he’d come over. Ed McMahon, God bless him, whenever he would see me, would run over and say hello and Doc [Severinsen] would say hello… [But,] Johnny would walk right past, cold as ice.”

And according to Joan, Fallon is the only one capable of filling Carson’s shoes.

(Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” on April 25, 1986)

“The only one I ever said could match him, which is funny, is Jimmy Fallon and I said that the first time I went in and saw Fallon,” she said. “The first time I said, ' He’s the next big one and boy has he come along.”

Catch Joan on Thursday’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “Joan Knows Best,” which returns on Saturday at 10 PM on WE tv. Following Thursday’s “The Tonight Show” appearance, Access will be on hand for her reaction to her return.

-- Jesse Spero

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