Photo from a discarded box I found in the alley.
This afternoon, I turned on the television, lamenting the sudden case of laryngitis that killed my plans to make a YouTube video today, and was soon hit with a flurry of developments worth blogging about. I could analyze what transpired at today's surprise press conference, President Obama's first at the White House since this Spring, or I could weigh in on the manufactured controversy surrounding Rep. Todd Akin's remarks about "legitimate rape" victims, or I could discuss Condoleezza Rice's historic admission to the Augusta National Golf Club. What ultimately prompted me to cut my wallowing in self-pity short, however, was the sad news that Phyllis Diller had passed away.
Phyllis rose to fame in the 1950s and '60s as a female stand-up comic (a rarity at the time) and soon landed her own TV series. Though The Phyllis Diller Show went off the air after only one season, its star continued to find work and introduce herself to younger generations. I personally got to know her watching old episodes of Matchgame on the Game Show Network and later through her appearances on such Disney Channel series as Boy Meets World and Even Stevens. Many of my contemporaries--and younger Americans--may not recognize the name Phyllis Diller but are probably familiar with her distinctive, cackling voice; in the past fifteen years, the aging comedienne supplied the voices of characters on Animaniacs, King of the Hill, The Wild Thornberrys, Hey Arnold!, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, The Powerpuff Girls, Robot Chicken and Family Guy, recording her last voice over on the cusp of her 90th birthday.
Diller's influence can be seen even among today's comedians. Prior to breaking out in her own right, Joan Rivers wrote for Phyllis. She was a guest on the first episode of The Chelsea Handler Show, during which the title character recognized her as "the first female comedian." An ebullient and enduring gift to humanity, Diller died in her sleep at her home in Los Angeles. R.I.P.