LIKE A LAMPSHADE IN A WHOREHOUSE: My Life in Comedy

Phyllis Diller, Author, Richard Buskin, With with Richard Buskin. Penguin/Tarcher $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-58542-396-5

Brash comedy and a surprising bitterness fuel this unsparing account of Diller's drive to make it big. Born to elderly parents in Lima, Ohio, in 1917, Phyllis Ada Driver was blessed with neither beauty nor wealth. At 20—and already pregnant—she married Sherwood Diller, a handsome, selfish ne'er-do-well who became the "Fang" in her comic monologues of domestic life; the couple had five children. Nearly 40 when she began her performing career, Diller turned a knack for relentless self-deprecation into a nightclub act. She performed in The Poets' Follies of 1955 with poet/painter/composer Weldon Kees and Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But women were a novelty in the bar-based world of stand-up comedy, and plenty of humiliating club engagements ensued. Diller persisted, though, and while her male colleagues (Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce) were pioneering 1950s "insult comedy," she turned the venom on herself and reaped its rewards. Eventually shedding her dud husband, Diller became a superstar—and the first one to go public about her plastic surgery ("I was a walking billboard for plastic surgery," she observes wryly). Retired from show business since 2002, Diller retains a dedicated fan base and an enormous interest in the world that spawned her. And considering she's the original "He's just not into me" girl, a pioneering desperate housewife, might this be the time to launch a comeback? Agent, Linda Konner. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-58542-476-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-14-305721-5
Hardcover - 387 pages - 978-0-7862-7557-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-305722-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-101-61770-0
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