Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Entertainment

August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller blazed trail for female comedians

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long before Kathy Griffin was languishing on the D-list, Roseanne Barr was calling herself a domestic goddess and Joan Rivers was asking audiences if they could talk, wild-haired housewife-turned-comedian Phyllis Diller was dishing one-liners about her husband, Fang.

"I should have suspected my husband was lazy," she once joked. "On our wedding day, his mother told me, 'I'm not losing a son. I'm gaining a couch.'"

Diller was the template for self-deprecating female comedians. She not only motivated a generation of funny women, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, her silver-tongued zingers — often punctuated by her trademark cackle — paved the way for them. And she inspired funny guys, too.

"Loved her," wrote Andy Richter on Twitter on Monday. "Sad to hear she died. A hero of mine." Dane Cook called her "a funny human being that brought tons of laughs to this world," while Patton Oswalt said she always seemed "genuinely tickled and happy" during her near century of life.

Diller passed away Monday morning in her Los Angeles home at age 95. She faced the end, fittingly, "with a smile on her face," said longtime manager Milton Suchin. The comedian, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1999, was found by her son, Perry Diller. The cause of her death has not been released.

She wasn't the first woman to crack jokes on stage; Gracie Allen had been getting laughs for decades playing dumb for George Burns. But Diller was among the first who didn't need a man around. The only guy in her act was a husband named Fang, who was never seen and didn't exist.

"Please recognize she paved the way single handedly for years for us female comedians," wrote Griffin on Twitter.

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