September 13, 2014 10:15 am

This Sunday, It All Comes Back to Joan Rivers

Two images showing Joan Rivers and her character, Dot Matrix, from 1987 movie Spaceballs, credit MGM/Getty Images, courtesy of

Joan Rivers did make it into space, sort of. She was the voice of Dot Matrix in the 1987 Mel Brooks movie, “Spaceballs.” Image Credit: MGM/Getty Images, courtesy of

We’ve had a lot of comedians as guests on StarTalk Radio.

Seth Meyers. Mayim Bialik. Michael Ian Black. Seth MacFarlane. Dan Aykroyd. John Oliver. Kristen Schaal. Michael Showalter. Sarah Silverman. Jim Gaffigan. Chris Hardwick. Scott Adsit. Bill Maher. Paul F. Tompkins. Wyatt Cenac. John Hodgman. Whoopi Goldberg. Janeane Garofalo. Matt Mira. Jon Stewart.

But before all of them, there was Joan Rivers.

Joan was our second guest comedian, after Stephen Colbert.

She was the guest in the last episode of our first season, What’s So Funny About Space?

Like many of you, I had never listened to that episode.

So when I was previewing Sunday’s episode, A Tribute to Joan Rivers, I was hearing the segments taken from that episode for the first time.

It was recorded in Joan Rivers’ NY apartment. Neil deGrasse Tyson was there with StarTalk Radio’s first comic co-host, Lynne Koplitz. Lynne and Joan were good friends, and in fact, Joan was her mentor.

We’ve all seen and heard plenty about Joan Rivers since she died, but none of that is what Neil and Joan talked about that day.

Because Neil and Joan and Lynne talked about space. And astronauts. And astronaut fashion. And why she wouldn’t want to travel into space. They talked about how Joan would go about selling moon rocks on QVC and what Joan would do if an asteroid were going to destroy the Earth tomorrow. They talked about Jewish aliens and the people who see UFOs or claim to be abducted by aliens and they talked about the size of Galileo’s… telescope.

Neil also asked Joan if there is a science of comedy, a question he’s since asked many of our guest comedians. Her answer was… definitive.

And Joan being Joan, she turned the tables on Neil and asked him a question – whether he believes that there’s life as we know it someplace out there in space. She also gave him an obscene amount of grief about Pluto – the operative word being obscene. With an F.

This is not, however, a repeat. It is a tribute, and that task falls to three of our current comic co-hosts: Eugene Mirman, Chuck Nice, and Leighann Lord. They each offered up their own perspectives on Joan’s life, personality, career and her impact on comedy in general and stand up in particular.

I don’t want to ruin your fun by spoiling any of Joan’s jokes, but I will leave you with one of Joan’s pearls of wisdom about comedy:

“Always bring everything back to yourself.”

Join us for A Tribute to Joan Rivers this Sunday at 7 PM ET on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up.

–Jeffrey Simons


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