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“I became a stand-up comedienne because I had a sit-down husband.”

The Performing Housewife

Phyllis Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, on July 17, 1917. An only child of late-in-life parents, she grew up surrounded by aging relatives, about whom she later joked, “I’m from such an old family, it’s been condemned.” As a child, she discovered that she could make people laugh, observing “I was always a pro— even as a little tiny kid. I was an absolutely perfect, quiet, dedicated student in class. But outside of class, I got my laughs.” Diller’s first husband, Sherwood Diller, the father of her six children, persuaded her to pursue a career as a stand-up comic. She cites comedians Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and Jonathan Winters as important early influences.

Diller launched her life in stand-up comedy in 1955. By the 1960s, she had become a nationally recognized entertainer as a result of appearances with her mentor, Bob Hope, on TV specials, in feature films, in nightclubs, and on USO tours. She retired from live performances in 2002. She continues to live in her home of many years, Brentwood, California.

Phyllis Diller in the 1950s

Phyllis Diller in the 1950s

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