Joan Rivers Funeral Was Emotional and Musical, Included Hugh Jackman, Broadway Show Tunes and Howard Stern

Joan Rivers' funeral, while away from Hollywood, was an honorable "showbiz affair" and included a final standing ovation for the comedy legend.

By Corinne Heller Sep 07, 2014 7:02 PMTags
Joan RiversBrian Bowen Smith/E!

Joan Rivers' funeral, while away from Hollywood, was an honorable "showbiz affair" and included a final standing ovation for the comedy legend.

The comedienne, TV star and host of E!'s Fashion Police, who died last week at age 81, was mourned on Sunday by family and friends, including at least 40 celebrities, at a memorial at Temple Emanu-El, a Reform Jewish synagogue in New York City.

The tearful, emotional and often humorous service was conducted by Rabbi Joshua Davidson and included performances of Broadway show tunes by Tony winner Hugh Jackman, the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and the New York City Police Department Emerald Society bagpipers and drummers, E! News has learned. Joan had performed in Broadway plays in years past.

The funeral also included jokes by her friend, Sirius XM radio shock jock and America's Got Talent judge Howard Stern, who had interviewed her several times on her show. Joan's daughter Melissa Rivers read a sweet letter to her mother, while the comedienne's other friends also delivered touching tributes to the late icon.

Joan had said in her 2012 book I Hate Everyone...Starting With Me that she wanted her funeral to be a "a huge showbiz affair."

The New York City Gay Men's Chorus performed first at her funeral, singing songs such as "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" from the 1949 musical South Pacific and "Hey, Big Spender" from the 1966 show Sweet Charity.

Broadway star Audra McDonald sang "Smile." She was followed by Stern, who delivered a humorous, partially crass and moving eulogy. He called Joan his "good friend" and his "hero."

Joan's friends, including Inside Edition host Deborah Norville and Page Six columnist Cindy Adams, as well as the comedienne's business manager, told stories about the comedienne, recalling her practical jokes, humor and class.

Melissa thanked the attendees and read a letter to her mother that she had recently written for a mother/daughter-themed article. She had read it to Joan not long ago and her mother loved it.

Jackman, who won a Tony in 2004 for his leading role in Peter Allen's autobiographical Broadway musical The Boy From Oz, performed one of the show's songs—"Quiet Please, There's a Lady on Stage." In the musical, Allen, the first husband of Liza Minnelli, sings the tune to honor his late mother-in-law, Judy Garland.

Sample lyrics are: So put your hands together and help her along / All that's left of the singer's / All that's left of the song / Stand for the ovation / And give her one last celebration" and "Quiet please, there's a lady on stage / Conductor, turn the final page / And when it's over we can all go home / But she lives on—on the stage alone."

Jackman received a standing ovation. The last one for Joan.


Following his performance, attendees were led in prayer and then the New York City Police Department Emerald Society bagpipers started playing "Amazing Grace."

They followed that with "New York, New York" and concluded the service with "Give My Regards to Broadway."

Whoopi Goldberg, one of the celebrity attendees, said on her Twitter page that Joan received a "truly funny, truly loving" send-off "by folks who loved her," adding that it was "funny" and "deeply moving, much like her."

"When they started with an X-rated joke and the rabbi was bowing his head I think it was joyful more than sorrow," attendee and veteran newsman Geraldo Rivera told E! News. "Filled with laughter. It was as if she wrote it herself. I thought it was a wonderful, positive upbeat time."

Another celebrity attendee, TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz said, "The best part was the elegance and flow of it all. [Joan] made friends from the moment she was on the planet."

—Additional reporting by James Chairman