Phyllis Diller: Her Life in Her Own Words
“Housework won’t kill you, but then again, why take the chance?”
“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”
Against all the odds, Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012) became America’s first successful and best-loved female stand-up comic. She began her professional career at age thirty-seven, in spite of the fact that she was a housewife and mother of five, and was working at a radio station because of her husband’s chronic unemployment. Fifty years later, after two traumatic marriages, extensive cosmetic surgery, numerous film, television, and stage appearances, and separate careers as an artist and piano soloist with symphony orchestras, Diller committed the story of her tumultuous (and entertaining) journey to the page, publishing Like a Lampshade In a Whorehouse.
Publishers Weekly on Like a Lampshade In a Whorehouse: My Life In Comedy:
“Brash comedy and a surprising bitterness fuel this unsparing account of Diller’s drive to make it big. Born to elderly parents in Lima, Ohio, in 1917, Phyllis Ada Driver was blessed with neither beauty nor wealth. At 20–and already pregnant–she married Sherwood Diller, a handsome, selfish ne’er-do-well who became the “Fang” in her comic monologues of domestic life; the couple had five children. Nearly 40 when she began her performing career, Diller turned a knack for relentless self-deprecation into a nightclub act. She performed in The Poets’ Follies of 1955 with poet/painter/composer Weldon Kees and Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But women were a novelty in the bar-based world of stand-up comedy, and plenty of humiliating club engagements ensued. Diller persisted, though, and while her male colleagues (Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce) were pioneering 1950s “insult comedy,” she turned the venom on herself and reaped its rewards.”