Born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, Diller earned her first break as a contestant on the game show You Bet Your Life in the 1950s, trading wisecracks with host Groucho Marx. Abandoning a budding career as a concert pianist, she fine-tuned a stand-up act detailing her suburban foibles with a hapless husband named Fang.
Diller did stand-up until her retirement in 2002, but it was as a guest on television talk and variety shows that cemented her reputation as a quick-witted, self-deprecating comic. She started with Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan, but later quipped with the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman. She also went on several USO tours with friend Bob Hope.
Diller headlined two short-lived TV series in the mid-â60s and made numerous guest appearances, on such shows as the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, Rowan and Martinâs Laugh-In, Seventh Heaven, Boston Legal and The Drew Carey Show. She also had a spotty film career, beginning with Splendor in the Grass in 1961 and including a memorable turn as the Queen in A Bugâs Life. In 2005, she penned an autobiography, Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse.
Phyllis Diller was married twice -- neither of her husbands, incidentally, was named Fang. She had five children with her first husband.
Joan Rivers Tweeted this afternoon, "I'm beyond saddened by the death of Phyllis Diller. We were friends -- Melissa and I had a wonderful time with her at lunch just a month ago."