Comedy Icon PHYLLIS DILLER-RIP
Superstar comedienne Phyllis Diller died today in Los Angeles, California. She was 95. Diller was not the first female stand-up comic ( ‘Moms’ Mabely had been performing since the 40’s ), but her outrageous fashions and irreverent sense of humor established her as a media comedy sensation in the 1960’s. Before Rosanne Barr, Diller joked about the drudgery of housework ( and a clueless husband named ” Fang ” ) and her self-depreciating gags no doubt inspired Totie Fields and Joan Rivers. Ms. Diller ( born Phyllis Ada Driver ) was writing radio copy in the San Francisco area in the 50’s when she decided to enter the world of stand-up comedy. After success at clubs, she soon branched into television with an appearance on Groucho Marx’s quiz show ” You Bet Your Life “. After nightclubs she perhaps had her biggest successes in TV as a fixture of talk shows, variety shows and game shows, although she had little luck with starring vehicles ( with her outrageously hued fashions Diller was a perfect fit for the new color TV sets ). Her sitcom ” The Pruitts of Southhampton” and her variety show ” The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show” were short lived. In addition to her stand-up work Ms. Diller toured as the lead on stage in ” Hello Dolly” and in later years she performed classical piano concerts around the country. Several comedy albums and a 2005 autobiography, ” Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse”, are part of her lengthy resume’.
But we movie geeks are especially interested in her screen career, and it’s quite a film list beginning with the dramatic classic SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS in 1961. Diller was soon bringing her humor to film in THE FAT SPY with Jayne Mansfield. Bob Hope found a perfect comic foil in her for three of his 1960’s feature films : THE PRIVATE NAVY OF SGT. O’FARRELL, EIGHT ON THE LAM, and BOY, DID I GET A WRONG NUMBER ( Diller also joined Hope for several holiday Vietnam USO tours ). She even had the lead role in 1968’s DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE TRAVELING SALESLADY?. Genre fans may recall her most fondly as the voice ( and image courtesy of Mad Magazine staple Jack Davis ) of the monster’s mate in the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated feature film MAD MONSTER PARTY in 1967. Diller shared scenes with Boris Karloff and sang a song to Frankenstein’s creation, ” You’re Different” in this kid classic. She would lend her voice to hand-drawn cell animation a few years later for an episode of ” The New Scooby Doo Movies” on Saturday morning TV. Many years later Diller was animated again this time via computers in Pixar’s second feature film A BUG’S LIFE as the voice of a royal ant. She’s also been interviewed for several documentaries, most notably in THE ARISTOCRATS. Phyllis Diller leaves an eclectic body of film work, Her legacy of laughter will entertain countless future generations.