The hairy, feathery lady comic was a riot, whether making fun of her hatchet face, her drooping boobies, or her sagging knees.
The reality is she was actually kind of attractive, but she did the shtick for laughs, and even turned into some kind of feminist in the process, especially when she dressed like a man and snuck into an all-male Friars Club event in 1983.
“How do you look so young?” I asked Phyllis at some bash or other way back when.
“Surgery!” she answered, point blank.
Whatever form Phyllis’s face took throughout the years, I always enjoyed her rapier wit and self-mocking cackle.
I loved her in TV’s The Pruitts of Southampton, adored her in bad movies like The Fat Spy and Boy Did I Get A Wrong Number, and wish to God I’d seen her in Hello, Dolly!
In honor of her legend, let me re-run my fave video of hers, which pairs her with her male equal.
As I wrote here in 2009:
“Two fluffy legends appear in the same room in this YouTube treasure: campy classical pianist Liberace and feathery standup comic/sitdown ivory tinkler Phyllis Diller, who is sort of his butch counterpart, with funkier hair and less jewelry.
“Imploding gender expectations on Lee’s variety show, these two icons banter, they set up some bad jokes, they perform a ragtime duet at the keyboards, and they will turn you deaf, dumb, and gay!!!”