Hollywood Remembers Phyllis Diller: 'She Was a Pioneer'

Phyllis Diller
Chris Buck

Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner and "Laugh-In's" George Schlatter recall her patented laugh and her golden touch with jokes: "You never saw Phyllis Diller and didn't at least smile," Reiner tells THR.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 23-Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.


George Schlatter, Laugh-In executive producer: "It's impossible to say the name Phyllis Diller and not smile. She was an original. She was one of the first truly liberated females who stood for women's rights. Phyllis was more than a comedienne: She was a writer, a brilliant musician and a feminist before there was a word for feminism. She never said anything mean about anyone other than her husband, Fang: All of her jokes were about herself. She not only created comedy, but she appreciated comedy. She was a delight to work with, and she never met a punch line that she didn't make better."

STORY: Joan Rivers On Phyllis Diller: "She Worked Like A Man"

Carol Burnet: "Phyllis has been a dear friend for many years. She was a pioneer for women standup comedians. I was with her a few weeks ago, and she had me on the floor with a few choice jokes. Funny, charming and loving. … I'll miss her."

Carl Reiner: "That laugh of hers should have been patented. It was the way she'd set the tone that made you smile. You never saw Phyllis Diller and didn't at least smile. When she first started out, there weren't many women doing stand-up comedy. There was Jean Carroll, who was on The Ed Sullivan Show, and then Joan Rivers. They started the trend, and now there are legions of them. I didn't work with her that much, but I spent some time with her. She didn't live that far away. I used to get lovely cards from her on birthdays or when she had something to say. She was the kind of person who'd send you baked goods. She was one of the sweetest women ever. As a matter of fact, she was too sweet to be in comedy."