Phyllis Diller: Comedy Comes From Tragedy

By Jared Bowen


Phyllis Diller interviewed for the American Comedy Archives. (Emerson College)

There was everything to love about Phyllis Diller—the jokes, the clothes, the stage presence. Then there was the intellect and the fortitude. How stunningly remarkable that at age 37 and with five children at home, she could begin carving out one of the most distinguished careers in American comedy. And it was the 1950s!

Diller made us think she was ugly when it wasn’t remotely true. She made us think she was crazy when she was actually quite brilliant. Most importantly, she made us laugh. Her insight into comedy was recorded by researchers at Emerson College who assembled the American Comedy Archives there beginning in 2004. They collected memorabilia, props, scripts and interviews with more than 50 comedians dating back to the first days oftelevision. We profiled their efforts in this Emmy-winning piece from 2006. In it Diller, as always, is a delight.

(Greater Boston)


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Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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