Melissa Rivers Pays Tribute to Her Late Mom Joan Rivers, Speaks Publicly For the First Time — Read Her Emotional, Funny Speech

Melissa Rivers at the Women In Entertainment Breakfast
Melissa Rivers paid tribute to her late mom Joan Rivers for the first time publicly on Dec. 10 Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Melissa Rivers spoke out about her late mother Joan Rivers publicly for the first time on Wednesday, Dec. 10. In front of Hollywood's most powerful women, including Angelina Jolie and Shonda Rhimes, the Fashion Police producer paid tribute to her mom in a moving, yet funny, speech at The Hollywood Reporter's 2014 Women in Entertainment breakfast in Los Angeles. 

 

Dressed in a pink dress, a composed Melissa took the stage at the Audi-sponsored event and recalled how "fearless" her mom, who passed away at the age of 81 after surgery complications, was. 

"I want to thank everyone for inviting me here this morning, and before we start, I'd like to point out that it is definitely a little intimidating to be in a room with the most beautiful, successful women in Hollywood," Melissa started off her speech. "But Angelina, I just want you to know I'm really very normal and accessible," she joked, before going on to admit that the "last three months and six days…have been different to say the least."

melissa rivers and sarah silverman
Melissa Rivers and Sarah Silverman John Shearer/Invision for The Hollywood Reporter/AP Images

While surely making her late mom proud by including bits of humor in her speech — Melissa joked that her mom taught her "shallowness" is next to "godliness" and everyone should really be looking at each others' shoes and purses — she recalled: "My mother was fearless. And I don’t mean she didn't have any fears, I mean that even though she was only 5'2", she stood tall and walked through it. And that's what made her such a brilliant performer. She was willing to say what others were thinking and too frightened to admit. She made fun of herself first and foremost which gave her the right to joke about others. She never apologized for a joke, and no topic was taboo and she was fine with that. Truth be told, my mother never thought of herself as a woman working in a man's world. She thought of herself as a comic that had to be funnier than anyone else…she just wanted to do her job and that was to make people laugh."

Joan's only daughter, who is mom to 14-year-old son Cooper, went on to say "there's been tribute after tribute to my mother," where she's "been called everything from a legend, to a trailblazer, to a bitch," but to Melissa, she said, "the bottom line is, she was really just my mother."

joan rivers
Joan Rivers Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Melissa concluded her speech by saying: "If my mother were here this morning, she'd not only be grateful and proud, she would be beyond herself. She would be sitting at the table beaming, while very discreetly shoving croissants and silverware into her purse. On behalf of my mother — thank you so, so much. It's an honor."

Sarah Silverman also honored the late comedienne, telling the crowd before introducing a tribute video dedicated to the late star: "Joan Rivers was not done. At 81 she lived a life that could jam pack ten lifetimes, but she wasn't done, she left us unfinished. She was as funny last August as ever. In fact, she was doing her best work. She once said she didn't feel she found her comedic voice until she was seventy. I love that. For true blue stand-up comics like Joan Rivers, there is no end game, it's a process, it's a lifestyle. The only thing that was going to stop Joan from being a comedian was death, so, touche death. And f–k you very much."

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