Them's Fighting Words: Joan Rivers and Her Infamous Feuds

Claudine Zap
·Claudine Zap
Joan Rivers (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers (Getty Images)

Joan Rivers, who died Thursday at the age of 81, had a successful career that spanned decades and myriad reinventions.

[Related: Joan Rivers's Most Outrageous Celeb Insults]

But you can't be that outspoken without making a few enemies along the way. In fact, Rivers was famous for her feuds. Here are the five biggest.

Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson (Getty Images)

1. Joan vs. Johnny Carson
What started it: In 1983, Carson designated Rivers as the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show. She was such a hit that in 1986, she left to host her own short-lived show on Fox. In response, Carson banned her from his show. When Jay Leno took over, he honored the ban.
What Joan said: When she was offered her own late-night program, Rivers couldn't wait to share the news with Carson. "The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again."
What Jonny said: Carson denied that Rivers ever reached out regarding her new gig.
Was it resolved? Since Johnny and Joan never spoke again, no. However, The Tonight Show's current host, Jimmy Fallon, welcomed Carson's nemesis with open arms when Rivers made an appearance on his show in March.

2. Joan vs. Janeane Garofalo
What started it: The Fashion Police host declared Garofalo "worst dressed" at the 1996 Emmy Awards.
What Joan said: "She looks like a bag lady," Rivers sniped. "Is this girl a pig or what?"
What Janeane said: "I've been known in my day to be acerbic, so I have no leg to stand on, but what Joan Rivers does isn't funny or clever or contemporary," Garofalo said in response. "But with me, she took it to extremes. She said I was an embarrassment to the institution of the Emmys, that I looked like a bag lady — no offense to bag ladies — and then she said, 'Is this girl a pig or what?' I thought, 'Now you've gone too far!' I was laughing at first, but then it became vitriolic."
Was it resolved? While we don't know if they ever buried the hatchet, Garofalo has continued to dress exactly as she pleases.

Joan Rivers and Janeane Garofalo (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Janeane Garofalo (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Jennifer Lawrence (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Jennifer Lawrence (Getty Images)

3. Joan vs. Jennifer Lawrence
What started it: The Oscar winner criticized the Rivers-hosted Fashion Police for its harsh, overly judgmental comments.
What J. Law said: During a Hunger Games promotional stop at Yahoo HQ, Lawrence was asked about people who judge others by their looks. She responded: "Screw those people. Shows like the Fashion Police and things like that are just showing these generations of young people to judge people based on all the wrong values and that it's OK to point at people and call them ugly or fat. They call it 'fun' and they say 'welcome to the real world' — and that shouldn't be the real world."
What Joan said: Rivers responded on Twitter, "It's funny how Jennifer Lawrence loved @E_FashionPolice during Awards Season when we were complimenting her every single week. But now that she has a movie to promote, suddenly we're picking on all those poor, helpless actors." Rivers then added, "WAIT! It just dawned on me why Jennifer Lawrence fell on her way up to the stage to get her Oscar. She tripped over her own arrogance."
Was it resolved? Not to our knowledge, but it's not surprising that Rivers got the last word.

[Related: Celebs Share Their Memories of Joan Rivers —Photos]

Joan Rivers and Chelsea Handler (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Chelsea Handler (Getty Images)

4. Joan vs. Chelsea Handler
What started it: When the talk-show host explained to the Daily Mail that she was ending her run with Chelsea Lately because she's "sick of celebrities," Rivers suggested the show's low ratings were the real cause of Handler's departure. Joan also took issue with Handler's claims to her place in the late-night pantheon.
What Joan said: "She [Handler] came out saying things like, 'I'm the first woman ever to do a late-night show.' She did this one day, and I followed her on the dais and I said, 'I guess everyone's forgotten the [Johnny] Carson show,'" Rivers recalled during an interview with Howard Stern on Sirius XM, referring to her pre-feud permanent guest-host stint on Tonight. "She never spoke to me again." But Rivers didn't leave it at that, calling Handler a "drunk" who had slept her way to success. Ouch.
What Chelsea said: Handler also turned to Stern to tell her side of the story: "Joan Rivers gets up and she's like, 'I'd like to thank Chelsea Handler for giving me a career in comedy and congratulations on your stage Chelsea because I don't even have a dressing room. And I'm like, f*** off!"
Was it resolved? Unfortunately, they never buried the hatchet. "I went to her, I was at a party, I said, 'Let's take a picture together because it'll make the papers,'" Rivers said of her attempt to patch things up. "She walked away. I thought, 'Oh, you stupid girl.' It's a small business, we should all be friends."

[Related: Joan Rivers Hailed by Comic Giants]

5. Joan vs. Kim Kardashian
What started it: If the rumors were true, Kim was so fed up with her E! Network colleague's comments about her and her family that she asked to be seated elsewhere when placed next to Rivers at the most recent NBC Upfronts.
What Joan said: At a stand-up gig in L.A., Rivers went after Kim and Kanye West's daughter, North West, reportedly calling the baby "ugly."
What Kim said: "Khloé and Kim were seated next to Joan, but they had [staffers] move her," a source told Us Weekly.
Was it resolved? Doesn't seem to be. While Kim's sisters Khloé and Kendall Jenner tweeted their condolences after Joan's death, so far it's been radio silence from Kim.

Joan Rivers and Kim Kardashian (Getty Images)
Joan Rivers and Kim Kardashian (Getty Images)