One of the true legends of the comedy world, Phyllis Diller, has died in Los Angeles. Known for her loud signature cackle laugh, she died surrounded by family. She was 95.
Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999 and was later fitted with a pacemaker. Recently she had fallen, hurting her wrist and hip, and her health had been on the decline ever since. She had been living in hospice care at her home.
She created a stage persona of a wild-haired, eccentrically dressed housewife who makes self-deprecating jokes about her age and appearance, her terrible cooking, and a husband named “Fang”, while pretending to smoke from a long cigarette holder.
She appeared in more than a dozen, usually low-budget, movies, including voice work as The Monster’s Mate in the Rankin/Bass animated film Mad Monster Party (1967), co-starring Boris Karloff.
Diller also starred in two short-lived TV series: the half-hour sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show) on ABC from 1966–1967, and the variety show The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show on NBC in 1968.
In 1993, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
In 1998, Diller provided the vocals for the Queen in Disney/Pixar’s animated movie A Bug’s Life. In 2005, Diller was featured as one of many contemporary comics in a documentary film, The Aristocrats. Diller, who avoids blue comedy, did a version of an old, risqué vaudeville routine in which she describes herself passing out when she first heard the joke, forgetting the actual content of the joke.
In 2000, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.
In 2003, after hearing of the donation of Archie Bunker’s chair to the Smithsonian Institution, Diller opened her doors to the National Museum of American History and offered up some of her most iconic costume pieces and her gag file, a steel cabinet with 48 file-drawers containing more than 50,000 jokes and gags typewritten on index cards by Diller during her career.
From August 12-October 28, 2011, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History displayed Diller’s gag file and some of the objects that became synonymous with her comedic persona-an unkempt wig, wrist-length gloves, cloth-covered ankle boots and a bejeweled cigarette holder