Phyllis Diller, Trailblazing Comic, Dies at 95

Phyllis Diller, the comedian with the frizzy platinum hair and screechy laugh who opened the door for many other female comics, has died at age 95.

BY Jeremy Kinser

August 20 2012 4:38 PM ET

Phyllis Diller, the comedian with the frizzy platinum hair and screechy laugh who opened the door for many other female comics, has died at age 95.

TMZ reports that Diller died in her sleep at her Los Angeles home this morning, surrounded by her family.

Diller had been a housewife when she began to dabble in comedy and often mined her domestic life for material, particularly prone to making jokes about her husband whom she called "Fang." With her distinctive appearance, she quickly became a household name in the early 1960s, appearing on countless talk and variety programs. She appeared in numerous films, including Splendor in the Grass, based on a play by William Inge; had her own sitcom, The Pruitts of Southhampton; and even headlined the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! Diller continued her stand-up routine until 2002, and her final performance was captured in the 2004 documentary Goodnight, We Love You.

Interviewed for a 2011 profile in Out magazine, Diller was asked how she'd want to be remembered. "For being funny," she replied. "Well, I should say being kind. I am a kind person. I'm kind to everybody. I treat everybody the same, and I'm proud of that. In fact, that's my religion."

Among other entertainers Diller was kind to was a new-to-show-business Barbra Streisand, with whom she shared a dressing room at Manhattan's Bon Soir nightclub in 1960. "I adored her," Streisand said in a statement. "She was a wondrous spirit who was great to me."

Joan Rivers used her Twitter account to express her condolences. "I'm beyond saddened by the death of Phyllis Diller," Rivers wrote. "We were friends — Melissa and I had a wonderful time with her at lunch just a month ago."

Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg also acknowledged the debt female comedians owe Diller.

"We lost a comedy legend today," wrote DeGeneres." Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer."

Goldberg mentioned Diller's distinctive look and sound, tweeting, "A true original has died. Phyllis Diller There was NOOne like her, no 1looked like her sounded like her. A FUNNY FUNNY. Classy& Smart RIP."

Watch a 1969 duet between Diller and Liberace below.

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