Fox Business Star Jamie Colby on Working With Joan Rivers, Reveling in ‘Strange Inheritance’

“She was the smartest businesswoman that I had encountered, and she was hilarious at every turn,” FBN host says of the late Rivers

Jamie Colby hits the one-month mark as host of Fox Business’ “Strange Inheritance” Thursday, and the show has delivered for the network, debuting as the highest-rated program in its history.

The original series follows Colby as she barnstorms across the county, interviewing families who were left with large — and strange — inheritances ranging from bug collections to antique dolls.

“In the end, I found some people were rewarded financially, but every single one of them was rewarded by learning about their ancestry,” Colby told TheWrap.

The Fox News/Fox Business anchor, who before her journalism career worked as an entertainment lawyer for the likes of Johnny Carson, John Travolta, and the late Joan Rivers, spoke with TheWrap in a wide-ranging interview on everything from filming the program to her unique relationship with celebrity clients.

TheWrap: Over the last few years, like most Americans, business news viewers have been down on their financial luck as the economy struggled. What can they learn from “Strange Inheritance?”
Jamie Colby: Sometimes it takes a little bit of luck. What I learned mostly is that if you’re going to leave something for the next generation, you should let them know what you want them to do with it. For example, in Iowa there was a family who inherited 150 antique tractors. For farmers and ranchers, they are struggling, and so an inheritance comes along like that — they’re so proud, that they really do struggle to figure out what would grandpa want us to do with the tractors, which ones would he be OK with us selling, which ones do we just have to sacrifice and keep, even if it’s just going to cost us money, or hurt our business. I know everyone is checking their attics or their basements since the show launched to see what they might have. I went back and looked — my son had a Tom Seaver [baseball card]. I don’t know if he’s going to retire on on, but the show has sparked people to think about collecting again.

For TV News, it seems like there is a growing trend of original, human-interest programming. (Some “Strange Inheritance” episodes feature families picking themselves up after a loved one dies.) What are some of the key stories that moved you?
That’s exactly what I thought was different about this project than any I’ve seen on the air. You see somebody who comes in with an item to a “Pawn Stars” or an “American Pickers” or any of those other shows, but this was a lot of heart in the Heartland. I did go to 25 states, and I went to a number of major cities, but I mostly went to small towns you might not have heard of.

For example, there’s a man in New Mexico [Portales], and he inherited 5,000 dolls. And it’s a little embarrassing for him because they call him doll boy at the diner; like he’s a manly man and he inherited dolls. And the guy is like, “I gotta get rid of these dolls, I just can’t handle it anymore.” But when I started to talk to him about how his mom acquired the dolls, well, she was a college-educated women during the depression, and she was a teacher, and her brother had been killed in the March of Bataan … so as a teacher every young man who deployed in her class, she told them to bring her back a doll.  I learned about the sensitivity of this woman, and I also learned about how important it was to him to protect mom’s legacy and her heart and to make sure these dolls went to a good home. I think people can relate to that.

Does getting out into the country for first-hand reporting like “Strange Inheritance” make you sharper as a studio anchor?
When I report on something, I try to do it from experience. For example, when Joan Rivers tragically passed [Rivers was a client of Colby’s in her previous career as an entertainment lawyer]; if I were to talk about her inheritance, I probably do have more insight now. I certainly was familiar with her wealth accumulation, of different businesses that she was in and how that worked. So, I probably could have reported that day about her estate, and how it works, and the tax situation.  On top of that, with the military, I never just really reported on the military — I went to 101st Air Assault School, and tried to become a combat medic, and threw myself in. I think the end result of doing the show is I’m a blast at a cocktail party: I can talk art, coins, stamps; I can also talk alligators, and bugs, and JFK letters.

What are some of your memories of working with Joan Rivers?
I met a lot of celebrities in my years practicing in entertainment law; I stayed in touch with very few. She was somebody who always cared about how other people were doing and when she would come into the office, she would stop by all the assistants and see how their babies were; she’d bring a baby present for someday. I got married in the period I knew her, and she was very interested in how I was doing and my excitement. She was the smartest businesswoman that I had encountered, and she was hilarious at every turn. Every comic has tragedy in their life, and when she lost Edgar [her husband who committed suicide], that was a really, really tough time for her. But she didn’t make it anybody else’s grief. She kept being hard working and taking care of her daughter she loved very much. I just remember her as being a normal mom and funny comic and a caring human being. I was really devastated when she died because there were so many more years of laughter left for all of us.

“Strange Inheritance” airs Monday-Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Business