Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)

Comedienne Phyllis Diller, who didn’t start her show biz career until she was in her mid-30s, passed away today at the age of 95. Her comic image, which included outrageous outfits, a shocking wig and an omnipresent cigarette holder, together with her self-deprecating humor, made her a hugely popular stand-up comic. But she was unable to translate that success to television. From 1966-1967 she starred in The Pruitts of Southampton on ABC, a sitcom about a wealthy family that suddenly finds itself not-so-wealthy, but it was cancelled after a single season (ABC attempted to revamp the series at mid-season, retitling it The Phyllis Diller Show). She followed that with The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show on NBC, an hour-long comedy/variety program that was on the air for just three months. But Diller didn’t need television to make her a success, although she would make dozens of guest spots and appearances over the years. She continued performing her stand-up routine until 2002 when she announced her retirement.

In 2000, Diller sat down for a three-hour interview with the Archive of American Television, which can be found here. And I’ve added a promotional spot for The Pruitts of Southampton to the Video Vault. Obituaries can be found at The New York Times, Variety and The Los Angeles Times.

1 Comment

  • DuMont says:

    Miss Phyllis Diller was a true trailblazer for female stand-up comedy, and it is a shame that no network ever gave her a shot at hosting a late-night talker, a format at which she would have excelled.

    ‘The Pruitts of Southhampton’ opened immensely for ABC, garnering a premiere rating of 33.6HH/55%, absolutely stunning Nielsens for the third-place Alphabet net. However, from those lofty heights, the series suffered week-over-week erosion, which led to endless tinkering by the network and producers, and taking it astray from its original rich-people-gone-poor concept…some enterprising producer should look to re-boot this series of a cash-poor rich family struggling in some mansion going derelict.

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