Phyllis Diller, the housewife turned humorist who aimed some of her sharpest barbs at herself, has died at age 95 in Los Angeles. ...
"She was a true pioneer," Diller's agent Fred Wostbrock told NBC News. "The first female standup comedian. ... She paved the way for Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler. Phyllis was the first of the first. The first female standup to play Vegas. She was on Broadway, she made movies, she did it all."
And "doing it all" means doing it all. On top of tv, club, and concert appearances, she acted in movies and performed voices in cartoons. I saw her performing on the Tomorrowland stage (beneath the twirling rocket ships near Space Mountain) in 1968. She was loud, she was boisterous, and she brought the house down. (Not an easy thing to do with all the ambient noise.)
I was a Disneyland ride operator in Tomorrowland that long, hot summer, and I had the opportunity to see a lot of acts that came through. I paid particular attention to the woman with the piercing voice and the fright wigs. Other comedians crashed and burned at that particular venue, but not Phyllis Diller.