From comedy clubs to the red carpet — and on screens both big and small — Rivers delivered decades of laughter

By Melissa Maerz
Updated September 12, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

1. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1965)
After years on the comedy circuit, Rivers finally got her breakthrough when Carson invited her on and proclaimed that she’d be ”a big star.” Rivers became a regular visitor (and guest host), which helped make her a household name.

2. The Girl Most Likely To… (1973)
Rivers co-wrote this campy TV movie, in which an awkward coed (Stockard Channing) gets plastic surgery — then exacts deadly revenge on everyone who was cruel to her.

3. What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most? (1983)
Collecting some of Rivers’ best zingers, which were aimed at the National Enquirer, the British royal family, and (naturally) gynecology, this best-selling comedy album earned her a Grammy nod.

4. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers (1986)
Rivers headed to Fox for a solo show. (Carson was so angry he never spoke to her again.) But the network fired her after less than seven months, and Rivers’ husband, producer Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide soon after.

5. Spaceballs (1987)
Rivers provided her one-of-a-kind voice to Dot Matrix, the robot lady-in-waiting to Daphne Zuniga’s Princess Vespa in Mel Brooks’ good-natured Star Wars spoof, which went on to become a cult favorite.

6. The Joan Rivers Show (1989-93)
This showcase for Rivers’ unique interviewing style won her a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 1990. During the four-year run, she interviewed celebrities and lesser-known guests, including a transsexual who believed she was pregnant.

7. Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story (1994)
Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, played themselves in this bizarre NBC movie about the aftermath of Rosenberg’s suicide. EW’s former TV critic Ken Tucker wrote then: ”Were [it] not so ghoulishly creepy, it would be an instant camp classic.”

8. Various Reality TV Shows (2009-14)
Joan won NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2009 (after memorably clashing with poker player Annie Duke). She also showed a (slightly) softer side on ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap and WE tv’s Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, both featuring her beloved grandson, Cooper.

9. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
This critically acclaimed documentary followed Rivers as she tried to stage a comeback. Brutally honest, it captured the comedian talking about her falling-out with Carson, her husband’s death, and her feelings about the new generation of female comics.

10. Fashion Police (2010-14)
Rivers headed up the panel of fashionistas for E!’s red-carpet recaps. And of course she weighed in on celebs as much as their clothes: ”I adore the Kardashians. They’re a lot like Colonel Sanders. They also built an empire on breasts, legs, and thighs.”