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As Joan Rivers’ friends and family mourned her death in Manhattan on Sunday, Chris Rock took some time out in Toronto to pay tribute to the comedian he refers to as “Mount Rushmore.”
“I know people are like, ‘Joan Rivers broke down all these barriers for women, blah blah blah,” he said in The Hollywood Reporter‘s video lounge at the Toronto Film Festival. “I think it’s a disservice to even group her in any — Joan Rivers is one of the greatest stand-up comedians to ever live. 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 also praised Rivers for never letting her comedy get stale.
“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. You know what I mean? 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 Thursday after being taken off life support. The previous week, she had entered Yorkville Endoscopy for a routine procedure on her throat when she reportedly suffered cardiac arrest. She was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan later that same day. The NYPD is investigating her death.
Rock is in Toronto promoting his new film, Top Five, which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for. It tells the story of a comedian trying to reinvent himself as a serious actor just as his reality TV star fiancee (Gabrielle Union) talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her show.
Rosario Dawson and J.B. Smoove co-star, while Rock’s friends Tracy Morgan, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and Whoopi Goldberg also make appearances.
Sept. 8, 11:35 a.m. A previous version of this story included an anecdote from Chris Rock about participating in the final taping of Joan Rivers’ short-lived Fox show on the same day that her husband Edgar Rosenberg died. Mr. Rosenberg died several months after the final taping of the program.
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