Melissa Rivers Pays Tribute to Her Mother, Joan Rivers, for the First Time

At the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast on Wednesday morning, Melissa Rivers gave a speech honoring her mother, the late, legendary comedian Joan Rivers. It was the first time she’d spoken in tribute to her mother, who she described foremost as "brave." “She never apologized for a joke and no topic was taboo and she was fine with that.” 

Melissa continued, “My mother was fearless and I don’t mean she didn’t have any fears. I mean that although she was only 5’2’’, she stood tall and walked through them. That is what made her such a brilliant performer.”

From when she was a child, Joan Rivers took risks. Melissa told a story about how Joan was sent home from Camp Kinnikinnick because she organized a bunk strike after the drama counselor apparently miscast Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And when she was 8 years old, she sent a photograph of herself—frame and all—to MGM, aiming to jump start her Hollywood career.

Her mischievous nature never lessened. If Joan were still here and at the Hollywood Reporter breakfast, Melissa said “She'd not only be grateful and proud, she'd be beyond herself. She'd be sitting at the table, beaming. While very discreetly shoving croissants and silverware into her purse."

Joan’s longtime friend and fellow comedian Sarah Silverman also took the stage at the lunch to pay tribute before introducing Melissa. "Joan Rivers was not done," she said.”At 81, she lived a life that could jam-pack ten lifetimes. She wasn't the average person. She wasn't done. She left us unfinished."

Hear Joan's story in her own words below, then click through the gallery above for a look at her fearless career.