REMEMBERING THE LEGENDARY FEMALE COMIC
Legendary Phyllis Diller, who paved the way for female comedians, passed away at her Los Angeles home today. She was 95.
Born on July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller studied piano for three years at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago, married young (at age 22) and had six children (one died in infancy). But she had an early taste of show business writing household-related one-liners for her husband at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II, and a move to California resulted in a job as a secretary at a San Francisco TV station. After putting together a nightclub act, she made her debut at a local club at age 37 and ultimately segued into guest appearances on television opposite Jack Paar, Jack Benny and Red Skelton. She was also a contestant on Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life in 1950.
Diller never had a long-running series, with self-titled sitcom The Phyllis Diller Show (originally called The Pruitts of Southhampton) airing for only one season (from 1966-67). But she remained a popular presence in the stand-up comedy circuit (Joan Rivers was an early writer) and also appeared on game shows like The Hollywood Squares and The Gong Show. Diller also guest starred in a host of TV series including Batman, Get Smart, The Red Skelton Hour, Love, American Style, The Love Boat, 227, Dream On and Blossom. More recently, she had a recurring role on CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful from 1999-2004, was a voice on three episodes of animated Fox sitcom Family Guy, and appeared on 2012 documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.
Diller’s trademark, of course, was mentioning her fictional husband “Fang” in her stand-up act.