ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR PHYLLIS
Phyllis Diller, what a dame!
I’ve loved her ever since I was a kid and used to sneak out of bed and watch her on American TV variety shows. She died today, aged 95.
Here she is on the Ed Sullivan show in 1969 with her trademark wild hair, self-deprecating gags, fake cigarette holder ( she didn’t smoke) talking about her long-suffering husband, “Fang”. It’s a great comic persona, truly memorable and funny as hell. Bet you get a laugh out of her routine.
A pioneer of stand up comedy and Queen of the one-liner, Phyllis paved the way for so many wise-cracking women.
She first appeared as a stand-up in the Purple Onion club in San Francisco on March 7, 1955 and remained there for 87 straight weeks.
She did it all in her long and illustrious career – radio, co-starred with Bob Hope in 23 TV specials and eight films; starred in Broadway shows and in her own stage comedy specials. She was a regular on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In (now, that takes me back). Loved that show too.
Most recently she appeared in the Drew Carey Show; voiced a character in the Family Guy and A Bug’s Life.
In 2003 she donated her gag-file to the Smithsonian Institute a steel cabinet with 48 file-drawers containing more than 50,000 jokes (!) and gags typewritten on index cards she had written during her career. She wrote her autobiography in 2005 entitled Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse.
Phyllis had plenty of heartache in her life. Plenty of reasons not to laugh.
She was a mother of six children: one who died of cancer; one who died after a stroke and another who only lived two weeks in an incubator. When one of her children was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Phyllis did her best to keep her at home, but eventually her daughter had to be insitutionalised.
But Phyllis was the ultimate showbiz trouper. Gave so many great laughs to millions.
She told the Wall Street Journal in 2005 that she had no regrets that her stand-up days were over.
“I just wish I could think of something wonderful to say before I kick the bucket,” she said. “My sense of humour will be the last thing to go.”
Seems she took whatever lemons life threw at her and came up with fizzy lemonade.
Round of applause, please!
A selection of comic lines from Phyllis:
“I once wore a peekaboo blouse. People would peek and then they’d boo.”
“I never made ‘Who’s Who,’ but I’m featured in ‘What’s That?’ ”
“When I told Fang I was going to have my face lifted, he said, ‘Who’d steal it?’”
“You know you’re old when your walker has an airbag.”
“I was the world’s ugliest baby. When I was born, the doctor slapped everybody.”
“I became a stand-up comedienne because I had a sit-down husband.”
“My vanity table is a Black & Decker workbench.”
“The only thing domestic about me is I was born in this country.”
“They say housework can’t kill you, but why take the chance?”
“I have so many liver spots, I ought to come with a side of onions.”
“Think of me as a sex symbol for men who just don’t give a damn.”
“The best contraceptive for old people is nudity.”