Joan Rivers' "Can We Talk?" Catchphrase Explained

Joan Rivers ABC - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Joan Rivers ABC - H 2014

An interview clip features the late legend tracing the roots of her three magic words

What's behind Joan Rivers' comedy catchphrase "Can we talk?" The late celebrity and talk show host, who died Thursday, had explained in an interview the roots of her three magic words — which actually aren't rooted in much of her doing.

"I always try to be very honest — my humor is truly stripping everything. Bam!" she explained. Her approach to her comedy: "Let's stop this nonsense!"

She soon found herself participating in call-and-response rituals onstage at standup gigs.

"I didn't realize I was saying it to the audience, and then they began repeating it back to me, so I don't say it anymore. Totally spontaneous."

Other comics noticed as well. "Rodney Dangerfield figured out, 'I don't get no respect,' and he said to me, 'Can we talk?' And I was like, 'What? Can we talk?' And he said, 'Oh, you use that phrase!' "

Watch her explanation in the clip below.

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