Toronto: Tina Fey Remembers Joan Rivers

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Buffalo David Bitton

“She was still really vital and a part of the comedy world right to the end”

As Hollywood sits shiva for Joan Rivers, Tina Fey sat down at the Shangri-La Hotel for interviews at the Toronto Film Festival to talk about This Is Where I Leave You, based on Jonathan Tropper's bestselling novel about a family sitting shiva.

"I had a cassette of her standup that I would play over and over," Fey told journalists, adding that Rivers was a pioneer who made Fey's own career possible. "Whether that was her intention or not she definitely opened doors for other women in comedy."

Fey's new movie, starring Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda and Adam Driver, focuses on a dysfunctional family sitting shiva for their father in a Long Island suburb. Reuniting Fey with Date Night director Shawn Levy, the family comedy was shot over 32 days at a budget of $20 million.

Fey plays Wendy Altman, married to a rich jerk (Aaron Lazar) who has more time for his smart phone than he does for his family. Meanwhile, her first love (Timothy Olyphant), a brain trauma victim, pines for her from across the street.

"Having been through a similar situation in the past year," Fey said, referring to the death of 30 Rock costar, Elaine Stritch in July. "You understand why whoever invented shiva did it, because everyone should be together and sharing old stories of happier times, being there for each other and taking turns crying."

The blocks surrounding Manhattan's Temple Emanu-El were shut down Sunday as stars turned out to mourn Rivers, with Howard Stern delivering the eulogy. According to People magazine, Audra McDonald brought the crowd to tears with "Smile," while Hugh Jackman brought them to their feet with, "Quiet Please, There's a Lady on the Stage."

"She worked until the last moment of her life, which I admire tremendously," said Fey, who recalled meeting Rivers once, briefly. "She was still really vital and a part of the comedy world right to the end."

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