Phyllis Diller’s Gag File

Description
This beige metal cabinet is Phyllis Diller’s gag file, a categorized archive of the jokes Diller used in her stand-up comedy routines throughout her half-century long career. A small three drawer expansion of the gag file is also in NMAH’s collection (Catalog Number 2003.0289.01.02). The 48 drawers of the gag file, along with the 3 drawer expansion, contain a total of 52,569 3-by-5 inch index cards, each holding a typewritten joke or gag. These index cards are organized alphabetically by subject ranging from accessories to world affairs and covering almost everything in between.
Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) began her comedy career in the 1950s at the age of 37 and broke barriers in the comedy world to become the first solo female comic to be a household name. She developed a stage persona of an incompetent housewife and dressed in outlandish outfits with wild hair. Her material focused on self-deprecating jokes that tackled the idealized image of American mothers and homemakers. She also created many mythical personas for her stage act including her “husband” Fang, her “neighbor” Mrs. Clean, and her “mother-in-law” Moby Dick.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Joke File
file
Date made
c. 1964-1989
manufacturer
Art Steel Company, Inc.
maker
Diller, Phyllis
Art Steel Company, Inc.
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
adhesive (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 48 in x 40 in x 17 1/4 in; 121.92 cm x 101.6 cm x 43.815 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
2003.0289.01.01
accession number
2003.0289
catalog number
2003.0289.01.01
subject
Humor
Comedians
Popular Entertainment
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Phyllis Diller
Additional Media

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