Phyllis Diller became larger than life by constantly belittling herself.
The groundbreaking comedian died Monday at age 95. Diller was a wild character that demanded your attention. Her outlandish props included a cigarette holder, even though she didn’t smoke, and a blonde wig. Diller broke one of the cardinal rules of comedy, laughing at her own jokes. She did so in an infamous, cackling laugh that even hyenas were envious of.
Her comedy was biting, without being mean spirited. It was edgy without being raunchy. Diller was constantly making ugly jokes, displaying a beautiful comic mind in the process. She paved the way for an entire generation of female comics. Roseanne Barr tweeted that Diller was a revolutionary woman who inspired her. Ellen DeGeneres called her a comedy legend and a pioneer.
Perhaps no current comic has more in common with Diller than Joan Rivers. Both gained fame for self deprecating humor, including their numerous trips to the plastic surgeon. Rivers said if Diller had started performing today, she could have done so without the props and still been a major star.
Diller did it all during her long career: standup, records, movies, books and Broadway. Retiring officially from standup comedy in 2002, she found time to explore her passion for painting. There’s no doubt she left a permanent mark on the canvas of comedy.
Read [Entertainment Weekly]