Wednesday Night Video – Phyllis Diller on The Muppet Show
August 22, 2012 Leave a comment
I appreciate the applause as Phyllis Diller exits stage left, but don’t fully agree with the assessment of the recently deceased Diller as “the first female stand-up comedian.” If we’re going to count her act as pure stand-up — as distinct from than the vaudevillian mode that dominated in the early twentieth century — then how are we to label Moms Mabley?
Of course, both Diller and Mabley were hugely influential when it comes to female stand-up comedians, with echoes that can still be seen all over the humor map — from the self-criticism of Tina Fey to the acerbic wit of Amy Schumer. Mabley and Diller had at least one foot in the older world of variety entertainment, which offered comic monologues alongside other forms of entertainment. That sort of multi-faceted background is also one reason why Diller could be funny without even talking, and why she fit so comfortably on-stage with the likes of the Muppets. Blow, Phyllis, blow…