Phyllis Diller: Standup Comedian Was The Original Desperate Housewife

By Rebeka Knott
THE PRUITTS OF SOUTHAMPTON - Gallery - Shoot Date: April 5, 1966. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Phyllis Diller was one of the first female comedians of her time, a woman who took to the standup stage when it was a men-only profession. With her outrageous routines, she presented a funhouse-mirror version of femininity: big hair, big outfits, over-the-top garrulousness, all delivered with a wink and a cackle. Audiences didn't know what to make of her, but they laughed anyway. Her success opened up the industry for female comedy voices including Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner and Roseanne Barr.

Diller was originally a working-class wife and mother of five. She didn’t break in to show business until she reached the ancient age of 37 years old. Besides being a homemaker, prior to her comedic success, she also worked in public relations at a radio station and was a newspaper advice columnist.