Legendary US comedienne Phyllis Diller, famed for her self-deprecating jokes, wild wardrobe and zany laugh, has died, aged 95.
Diller, the zany housewife-turned-stand-up comic enjoyed a long career in clubs, movies and TV in a career spanning nearly 50 years.
She died in her sleep on Monday at her longtime home in Brentwood, Los Angeles.
Diller was a mother of five when she made her nightclub debut at the Purple Onion in San Francisco in 1955 at 37 years of age.
Known for her adept timing and precisely structured jokes, she took pride in being able to deliver as many as 12 punch lines per minute.
She once described herself as “The Elizabeth Taylor of The Twilight Zone” and a woman who once worked “as a lampshade in a whorehouse.”
During her long career, she was in more than two dozen movies, including three with Bob Hope, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), Eight on the Lam (1967) and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968) plus The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Splendor in the Grass (1961).
A special guest on hordes of TV shows and comedy specials and, especially on such riotfests as Laugh-In (1977) and the Dean Martin celebrity series of roasts, she became a celebrity on the game show circuit as well, milking laughs on such established shows as The Hollywood Squares (1965) and The Gong Show (1976).
IMDb notes The Phyllis Diller Show (1966) had Phyllis pretty much pulling out all the stops (fright wig, garish outfits and all) as a wacky widow invariably scheming to keep up a wealthy front despite being heavily in debt. She had the reliably droll Reginald Gardiner and cranky Charles Lane as foils and even Gypsy Rose Lee was in there pitching, but the show didn’t jell. Revamped as The Phyllis Diller Show, several of comedy’s best second bananas (John Astin, Paul Lynde, Richard Deacon, Billy De Wolfe, Marty Ingels) were added to the mix, but the show was cancelled after a single season. A second try with The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show (1968), a comedy/variety show that had the zany star backed by none other than Rip Taylor and Norm Crosby, lasted only three months.
Amongst countless appearances were Boston Legal (2004) and 7th Heaven (1996) and animated features Monster Party? (1967) and A Bug’s Life (1998).
She also toured Australia many times and eventually retired in 2002.
Diller, who is being reported as dying “with a smile on her face”, nspired a generation of female comics, including Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, who remembered Diller on Twitter.
“We lost a comedy legend today,” DeGeneres wrote. “Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer.”
Source: LA Times