Phyllis Diller’s Best Gags

Photo: Allan Warren

Growing up, I was never a big fan of Phyllis Diller’s. I know this is a lousy way to begin a tribute, but it’s true. I’d seen her on talk shows and in a few bad Bob Hope movies, and something about her shtick just rubbed me the wrong way. She struck me as old Hollywood, the type who dined at Chasen’s on a Sunday evening, and I was already bored with that era, and tired of housewife jokes.

But take this critique for what it’s worth. At the same time, I also didn’t care much for Johnny Cash. I grew up knowing him less as a singer/songwriter  and more as an actor on dreadful TV movies.  Then I took a good hard listen to Cash’s album, Live From Folsom Prison. And it struck me: He’s more than that guy on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. He’s as good as it gets!

Over the years, I’ve had a similar—though less seismic—epiphany regarding Phyllis Diller. Some of her gags, I’ve discovered, are truly hysterical. I’ve also come to appreciate the rough road she traveled in blazing a trail for all the comediennes who followed her. So we bid farewell to a comic legend by reprinting some of her best lines:

•What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.

•Best way to get rid of kitchen odors: eat out.

•Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?

•My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast. Turned out to be a trick knee.

•We spend the first 12 months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 telling them to sit down and shut up.

•Always be nice to your children because they’re the ones who will choose your rest home.

•The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.

•I admit I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives forty miles away.

•Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.

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