Happy Birthday, Miss Diller!

“Comedienne Phyllis Diller occupies a unique position in the annals of American stand-up comedy as the first woman to make her name in that previously all-male preserve. Remarkably, her show business career began in 1955 when she was thirty-seven years old. In four decades, Diller progressed from being the only touring female comedienne within the United States to one of the world's most successful and best-loved comics, and the acknowledged forerunner of the many female comics who have followed her.” —"Phyllis Diller." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (2000)

Phyllis Diller was a late blooming entertainer, auditioning for her first gig at the Purple Onion in San Francisco. Her instant popularity propelled her to the national stage, where her comedy act was completely based on her domestic experiences as wife and mother of five. She dressed outrageously: her signature elements included cigarette holder, white gloves, a wild variety of fright wigs--some of the best being the extreme bleach jobs--and stage boots. [A pair of her blue embroidered stage boots were displayed at the library a few years ago. They must have been favorites as they were beautifully re-soled]. With her raucous cackle she became the heroine for put-upon housewives everywhere.

Phyllis Diller has given more than fifty years of her life to entertaining America, through stand-up comedy, the Broadway stage, television shows, films and books. In the 1998 film A Bug’s Life she was featured as the queen, an appropriate topping to a brilliant career. Phyllis Diller, the queen of comedy, celebrates her 94th birthday on July 17. All the best from your fans on the 6th floor!

Read and view more about Phyllis Diller.

Comic Phyllis Diller and Nat Schmulowitz, whose Collectio... San Francisco Public Library
Phyllis Diller and Nat Schmulowitz at
the San Francisco Public Library, circa 1962