NPR : Fresh Air

Fresh Air Remembers Comedian Phyllis Diller

Play associated audio

Phyllis Diller, one of the first and one of the few female comic headliners of her generation, died Monday at the age of 95.

Diller performed in the persona of a crazed housewife. She usually dressed in outlandish, bad-fitting clothes with her hair teased into a disheveled mop. Then she'd fire off long strings of self-deprecating gags. She was so unattractive, she used to tell her audiences, that Peeping Toms asked her to pull her window shades down. Onstage, she called her husband Fang. Diller told Fang jokes like her male counterparts told wife jokes.

Diller got a late start as a comic — she didn't enter show business until she was a 37-year-old mother of five. She had already worked in public relations at a radio station and had written a newspaper advice column. It was her first husband who suggested she try comedy, because it appeared to pay well and they needed the money.

In an interview Fresh Air's Terry Gross recorded with her in 1986, Diller explains what her routine was like before she developed her persona.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


'Blackacre': A Collection Of Poems About 'Searching And Being Buffeted'

Tess Taylor reviews the poetry collection Blackacre by Monica Youn.

Trick Or Treat? Critics Blast Big Soda's Efforts To Fend Off Taxes

Several U.S. cities have sugary drink taxes on the ballot. As efforts to reduce soda consumption gain traction around the world, critics say the industry is using the tobacco playbook to fight back.

'The Press Has Poisoned The Minds Of Our Voters': Unpacking Trump's Claims

Donald Trump has alleged that the presidential election is rigged because, in part, the news media have "poisoned" the minds of voters. We take a closer look at the claim.

China's Internet Stars Embrace Lowbrow — And Aim For High Profits

China's Internet stars are widely panned as vulgar, vapid and materialistic. But China's fierce demand for online content is helping the newly minted celebs to surpass A-list movie stars in earnings.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.