You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Entertainment

  • Stars sign on for '24 Hour Plays' fundraiser
    NEW YORK – Actors often complain about short rehearsal times, but some of entertainment's biggest names – including Melanie Griffith, Amanda Seyfried, Uzo Aduba, Peter Dinklage, Nina Dobrev and Pablo Schreiber – are
  • Stars sign on for '24 Hour Plays' fundraiser
    NEW YORK – Actors often complain about short rehearsal times, but some of entertainment’s biggest names – including Melanie Griffith, Amanda Seyfried, Uzo Aduba, Peter Dinklage, Nina Dobrev and Pablo Schreiber – are
  • Firestorm over Met opera hits fever pitch
    NEW YORK — Some big-name politicians are joining Jewish protesters in a growing firestorm against an opera they say glorifies Palestinian terrorists.
Advertisement
Associated Press
Phyllis Diller gets a lift from Buddy Hackett before a stag luncheon roast at the New York Friars Club on Oct. 9, 1985. Diller died Monday at age 95.

Phyllis Diller dies at 95

Housewife trying to pay bills found enduring career

Phyllis Diller, the cackling comedian with electric-shock hair who built an influential career in film and nightclubs with stand-up routines that mocked irascible husbands, domestic drudgery and her extensive plastic surgery, died Monday in Los Angeles. She was 95.

Diller was among the first women to tackle the male preserve of stand-up comedy. She used her first husband for comedic fodder by disguising him as a fictitious character named “Fang.” Her jokes – roasts of his drinking habits, sexual shortcomings and professional failures – reversed traditional household roles.

Susan Horowitz, a stand-up comic and author of the 1997 book “Queens of Comedy,” called Diller a significant figure in American culture who rose to success through her wickedly self-mocking style.

Diller’s stage appearance was ghastly – and highly calculated. Operating under the belief that attractive women could not be taken seriously in comedy, she wore shapeless, short dresses, dyed her hair platinum blond (“to reflect light”) and teased it into an Einstein-like frenzy, feeding her persona of a crazed, incompetent ugly duckling.

“Comedy is aggressive,” Diller once explained. “That’s why men used to hate women comics. That’s why there weren’t any. … Women are not supposed to be bright, and there’s no such thing as a dumb comic.”

Phyllis Ada Driver was born in Lima, Ohio, and studied at Bluffton College in Ohio with the hope of being a teacher. In her senior year, she eloped with a fellow student, Sherwood Diller, who came from a wealthy Bluffton family. They eventually settled in San Francisco and, in time, had six children, one of whom died in infancy.

To augment the family income, Diller began taking copywriting jobs for an Oakland department store and radio station. On the side, she discovered she had a talent for making her friends and neighbors at PTA meetings giggle as she joked about her harried domestic life.

Diller entered show business at 37, making her stand-up debut at San Francisco’s Purple Onion nightclub in 1955.

Advertisement