Phyllis Diller

Cat or Osama?


T-Wide Heaven


Phyllis Diller is a Funny Lady

When I was a kid during the 1960s, my favorite TV personality was Phyllis Diller.

Back then, Phyllis was everywhere—talk shows, game shows, and movies. She appeared with Bob Hope when he entertained the troops, and she even did cartoon character voices. As long as I can remember, everytime she was a guest on What's My Line? or The Mike Douglas Show my mother would find me and I'd drop whatever I was doing, head to the TV and watch her.

And she was hilarious. For her stand-up act, she was a wild-haired, oddly dressed housewife who made jokes about her husband named "Fang" while smoking from a long cigarette holder. She always compared herself to "Mrs. Clean" who had a perfectly sparkling home. "Mrs. Clean says her floors are so clean you can eat off of them, well, you can also eat off of mine. There's some jelly over there, there's some spilled milk over there..."

Fast forward twenty years. I was living in Wilmington, NC working at WGNI-FM radio and writing a comedy service for radio personalities called The Cat's Pajamas on the side. I was a member of a comedy writers' club called Gene Perret's Round Table. Gene had worked as a writer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and later The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family. Gene was friends with Phyllis and through him, I got her address and sent her several pages of jokes I'd written.

A few weeks later I received a letter with a "Los Angeles" postmark. The postage machine stamp said "PHYLLIS DILLER IS A FUNNY LADY" and when I opened it, it was from Phyllis. She told me that none of the material I'd sent her "set her on fire" but thanked me for writing, nonetheless. Most big stars would not take the time to send a personal letter. They would have their assistant do it or wouldn't bother. But Phyllis did this herself, proving that she is as classy as she is funny.