Making Dreams Come True for Comics and Speakers since 1984
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Paying Homage

I first met Phyllis in the ‘80s when we did a Showtime comedy special together. She held court in her dressing room, as she gave us “up and coming” female comics tons of generous advice:

“The worst thing is the amateur comic who opens with, ‘Are you having a good time?’ How do they know they are having a good time? They’ve only just arrived. That’s a cheap way to get a reaction, and it’s also the worst possible move, to create an opening for the audience to talk. If they take control with that question, you’ll never get them back.”

Later, when I wrote my first book, Stand-up Comedy: The Book, Phyllis agreed to an interview. She revealed to me her motivation (and method) for becoming a stand-up comic at 40 years old: “My husband had left and my kids were hungry.  I had to make a living.  I was always funny, but I knew I needed to get a persona.”

Phyllis invented her persona. She knew that she couldn’t be a glamour girl, so she put on a crazy wig and created her imaginary husband, “Fang.”  Many of you who were familiar with her act might be shocked to learn that Fang was invented – because he became so real to us in her act.

“For Fang, getting out of bed in the morning was a career move… Fang took the entire family out for coffee and doughnuts the other night. The kids enjoyed it. It was the first time they’d ever given blood!”

Thank you, Phyllis, for being a trailblazer for the rest of us female comics.  You left us smiling -- and left this world in that same way.

Phyllis died in her sleep, and was found by her son who said, “She had a smile on her face.”

As Phyllis said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

You will never be forgotten.

Please share your thoughts here.


Lisa McT said...

Great tribute Judy!

Chuck the editor said...

What a great and loving tribute! You should write a book about the tradition of female comics. Seriously.

Brian Shirley said...

Very touching and classy tribute to a fantastic entertainer.Thanks Judy and goodbye Phyllis! R.I.P.

Lee Andrassy said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Diller in 1979. She was speaking at a Women's conference in Mentor, Ohio. I was the lucky one who was chosen to be her chaperone to the event. Phyllis was a proud, classy, funny lady. She will be missed.

Thanks for the tribute Judy...

Unknown said...

What a great story Judy, thank you for that piece of her. I so agree about that opening, it is our job to make sure they have a good time and they laughs will give you your answer. What a legend. The world seems a bit quieter now.

onlykindnessmatters said...

She was one of my favorites. Thank you, Phyllis, for making us laugh. :>)

Carmen Garrison said...

Phyllis Diller was an ICON. She was a unique individual who had a stage pressence that was timeless and relatable even today. She set an example for aspiring comics, male and female; however, she paved the way for the rest of us. For her life really was starting at 40, and 50, and even 90. RIP. As your legend lives on forever!

Paul said...

Phyllis has inspired comedians for years..She has inspired me due to the tragic circumstences of life. I find myself in a similar situation. I served in the military for 15 years and they kicked a bro out..Well I have 5 mouths to feed...I turned to comedy..then acting now comedy called me back... RIP Phyllis you have inspired me....P-Paul Pimpin comedian/actor.

Cathy L. said...

Oh, Judy, that was lovely. Although I'm sad that Phyllis is gone, because she was such a beacon, I know that she had such a great life, gave so much of herself, and will always be remembered in such a positive way. See ya, Phyllis.

Sweetpaprika said...

I, too, loved Phyllis Diller. I identify with her not only because I also do stand up, but because we have the same name and I, too, come from Ohio. "We went to different colleges together." I think she holds a record for the most laughs at one-liners in one minute. I seem to remember it's 12.


Tom said...

She was the first comedian to buy jokes from me. From there I went on to sell to many others, but the first is always special. Rest in peace, Ms. Diller.

Mr. Ed The person... said...

Think about this. Over the last several years God has taken a lot of famous people, he needed a great stand up comedian! Have fun Phyllis!!!

Jeff Caperton said...


Thanks for sending out this tribute to Ms. Diller, she was one of a kind. I had the privilege to meet her when was a teenager at Bob Hope's birthday party in 1986 and she was exactly what I expected her to be! I was sad to hear of her passing as I drove home from work last night. We're losing so many of the greats, I guess we should thank you for doing your part to replace them by finding and developing the NEW greats!!!

susanmyra said...

What a way to go. In your sleep w a smile on your face after a long successful career. We should all be so lucky!

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Frannie Sheridan said...

Thank you so much for your elegant words, Judy. The world has lost one of the rare ones - a legendary comedian who was equally funny and kind:)

thevanbrown said...

Judy, Phyllis was a strength, and one of the funniest people I've ever seen perform. She knew her character, and besides her prepared material, she was an improvisational genius. Thank you for your thoughtfulness here. Well said.

Audrey Levy said...

Nicely done, Judy. I saw Phyllis Diller perform in Miami Beach when I was a teenager - too many years ago to count - my Dad took the whole family to one of those hotels on the beach for her show, where she was the main act - Ms. Diller was hilarious! Our sides hurt from laughing so hard. Her stories about Fang were true genius. I loved her in movies, too. Thanks, Judy, for remembering her for all of us to comment on.

Micheline Birger said...

Love ya' of the greats...why do comics live so long I wonder...come and see me in my dreams and give me fresh material Phyllis...I feel like one of my sisters have gone to brighter pastures...I bet you will be making them laugh up there too!

BarryF said...

Thanks for that essay, Judy. Goose Bumps. Yeah - she was everything.

Juliet said...

I took my first stand-up class at the age of 57—one of many—with you, Judy. I began searching for vintage LP's of the great female comics. I only found two: Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller. I am listening to PHYLLIS DILLER LAUGHS; produced by Irv Siders, recorded at the Bon Soir in NY, March 1961—and I am smiling. Thank you, Ms. Diller.

Gina Rodgers said...

We lost a comedic icon, Phyllis Diller. She was not only a stellar comedian and record holder for most laughs per minute(12!), she was known to those who knew her as an incredible human being. When asked what she wanted to be remembered by, she didn't say anything about her incredible talent. But replied, "for being kind."
Phyllis Diller- may your spirit live on.

Gina Rodgers said...

I will never forget (wrote it down) what she said when asked what her advice would be to young comics- "...have a strong stance(ie. point of view/attitude)be honest, be clean, be funny." It's the latter part of that that seems to be the most challenging for me. :) Lol.

George Haider said...

Remember the movie she did, "Did You Hear The One About The Traveling Saleslady?" It's never been officially released, but you can get a copy on - type in the title and there are several vendors selling the film. The video is great, but the sound is slightly out of synch, not too bad.

Rayona Sharpnack said...

The Purple Onion must be crying tonight. I had the distinct honor of meeting the divine Ms. Diller in the early 90's. She was hosting her own art show in Los Gatos, Ca. Her paintings were stunning - beautiful, whimsical. I introduced myself as a fan and was intrigued by her rapt attention and presence. She was so authentic and down to earth. As we were chatting her assistant ran her schedule by her - she was in her 70's at the time and her schedule was crazy - flying each day for comedy shows and art shows, talk shows, etc. I commented on how crazy her schedule was and she just laughed and said something about how she loved it. I also recall that he was so tiny, so petite and short, yet a powerhouse of fun and laughter. I hope Fang gives her a proper memorial.

Carl said...

Phyllis was a classic. She came on the scene when women were just getting their just dues.

One of my favorite jokes of Phyllis' was: "It took me three weeks to stuff my Thanksgiving turkey. Stuffed it through the beak."

Anonymous said...

Phyllis Diller blazed the trail for today's female comediennes by puncturing the "Perfect Housewife" myth. I performed a tribute to her last night and it KILLED! P.S. Is Fang noticing?

Unknown said...

Nice to know something made her smile when she left this earth when you think of all the laughs she gave her fans. Great tribute Judy.

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