I thought it would be nice to start with a video of Diller’s performance without any frames. She’s genuinely funny, and in spite of the garish dress, she seems very genuine. It’s difficult for me to find the rapid-fire one-liners of yore (and of Jeff Foxworthy) funny, but with Diller, somehow, it works.
Now for the frame.
I recently read a piece in The Atlantic commemorating Phyllis Diller, and I found myself panicking. Author Ashley Fetters put together many of the points I wanted to make in this post already. (Don’t you hate it when such an esteemed and often brilliant publication says exactly what you were going to say? It happens to me all the time.)
The piece was thoughtful and thorough, but the premise troubled me:
Diller’s trademark brand of hapless, self-deprecating, ugly-girl humor was based [on] an invented set of shortcomings she didn’t actually have. Which highlights a weird glitch in the system that still plagues women in comedy today: Why can’t funny women be hot? Or accomplished? Or smart? Why do so many women with these otherwise highly valued traits have to downplay them to get laughs?