Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
One of the first and most influential female stand-up comics, Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) began her comedy career at thirty-seven after regaling fellow bored housewives at the local laundromat with stories of her home life. Her husband encouraged her comedy career, and she soon began writing her own material and working with a drama coach. Diller built up her mileage performing everywhere that would have her: hospitals, women’s halls, church halls, and PTA meetings. In 1955, Diller made her comedy club debut at the Purple Onion in San Francisco and offered the first glimpse of the wild, wicked housewife who would become her onstage persona. She started making television appearances everywhere, most notably on The Tonight Show, often outfitted in a long lamé housecoat, rhinestone-studded boots, and clownish makeup. That witchy physical persona was vital to her success; it provided an access point for her audience to instantly like her and believe her bits. With her look nailed and her rapid-fire delivery of one-liners rivaling that of male comedians like Bob Hope, the audience response was wildly positive—and enduring; she kept working well into her eighties. Diller’s success was an essential part of the new wave of personal emancipation for women: now they could be loud and brash, self-deprecating yet clever, and, most important, funny.