Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RIP Phyllis Diller

We lost a giant yesterday. Phyllis Diller passed away at 95. She was the Moms Mabley of the post-Borsht Belt set. Where the standard role for women in comedy was the blonde ditsy wife, Phyllis Diller didn't need a male partner to play off of. She was so big a presence that she didn't need anything. The wig, the outfits, the gravelly voice, all of it part of a comic who was always in control and always seeming to have a good time. Her jokes were self-deprecating, but unlike Woody Allen or Richard Lewis, she was always the first person to laugh at them. There was a cheerful, devil may care attitude to her stand-up that was trademark. She consciously played away from type, mocking fashion and everything a woman in the 50s and 60s was supposed to be. But the rejection was not one of bitterness and anger, just straight up don't give a damn. She was her own person at a time when women weren't supposed to be. What Sid Caesar did to lampoon the post-World War II suburban man, Diller did for the women of that time being very, very funny illustrating her own failures as a housewife, but shedding light on the failures of life for the mid-20th century housewife in general. Betty Friedan may have spoken to the intellectual set, but Phyllis Diller said it better for everyone else.Rest in peace, Phyllis Diller and thank you for all the laughs.