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How You May Know Phyliss Diller (1917-2012)

Michael Buckner / Getty Images

The name Phyliss Diller brings up a time of Hollywood’s past, but she was a trail blazer in the world of stand up comedy when women were not seen often on stage.  Diller passed away this Monday afternoon at the age of 95, leaving behind part of her legacy you may recognize today.

In the 1950s, female comics were extremely rare.  Diller broke on through in the them male dominated world of comedy and became a staple in nightclubs and television during the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Sandy Cohen gives a great summary of her stand-up career (thanks to The Press of Atlantic City for releasing this story from the Associated Press).

Your parents or grandparents are probably very familiar with the work of Diller, but how may you be familiar with the comedienne?  Let’s start with The Beastie Boys – their classic song “Time To Get Ill” from their 1986 CD License To Ill has the line “I’ve got more rhymes than Phyliss Diller”.

You may recognize Diller’s voice from A Bug’s Life (as the Queen), or even in Family Guy (popping up as Peter’s mother).  She has spent much of the last 15 years doing voice work ranging from The Powerpuff Girls to Hey Arnold!

If you watched daytime soap operas, then you may have caught Phyliss last decade with her recurring role as Gladys Pope on The Bold and The Beautiful.

Diller may have never been a huge star on a TV show or on the big screen, but she popped up frequently and became like comfort food to a generation.  Her influence is felt by many today – Whitney Cummings, who stars on her own show on NBC, tweeted recently “Thank You Phyliss for being everything”, and Whoopi Goldberg tweeted “A true original.  There was no one like her.  A Funny, Funny, classy and smart lady – RIP!”


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