Phyllis Diller: Life and Laughs

Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917–August 20, 2012) is widely considered to be the first female stand-up comic to perform as a solo act. To celebrate her 100th birthday in 2017, the Smithsonian worked with hundreds of volunteers to digitize and transcribe Diller's gag file, a large cabinet where she kept her jokes categorized by theme. Now, all of her jokes are available to the public. “Phyllis Diller used her experience as a wife and mother to create a satirical persona outside the traditional values of her audience,” said Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. “It was her great dedication and talent that allowed her to break the gender barrier that existed in stand-up comedy at that time and pave the way for future female comics to have the same success.”

Because of Her Story