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.

One Reply to “Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)”

  1. 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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