My Close Encounter(s) With Phyllis Diller-RIP
The great Phyllis Diller passed away today (Aug. 20/12) at age 95. She was amazing and a true pioneer. If you click here you can read her story.
This is my story about her.
Years ago (let's just say the 70's) I wanted to write comedy for comedians. I had read that Phyllis Diller would never steal jokes, that she would pay for any jokes she used (only 3 or 4 bucks each) and that if she liked you she would keep on using you.
That's all the encouragement I needed. I sent off 8 pages of one liners (under a nom de plume) to the great comedienne and was surprised that about six weeks later I got a big envelope from Hollywood. In it was a book, The Magic of Believing, inscribed and signed by Phyllis telling me to do what the book said. A note headed "From the Desk of Phyllis Diller" gave me some pointers. (pic below) All my joke sheets were returned and she had made notations on most of them, giving me advice or telling me what she liked about a certain one liner.
AND...in the envelope, a cheque for $21. She had actually purchased 7 of my jokes at $3 a pop. That's it! I was now in professional show business.
So the comedy writing career didn't flourish but 15 years later Phyllis is a guest on my radio show. Remember, I'm now working under my real name of Larry Fedoruk. Phyllis is wearing a loud polyster house dress with a fur coat....in July. She's funny and charming for an hour and as she's leaving (off the air) I finally work up the courage to tell her that many years ago she bought some jokes from me and was very encouraging to a young writer. I thank her profusely.
She asks me what jokes I sent and the only one I could remember was that Helen Reddy looked like Bob Hope with bangs. (Long nose joke...ha ha, I'm soooo funny.) I say to her, "Well I sent you a joke about Helen Reddy." Without missing a beat she says...."Bob Hope with bangs?" I scream yes. She had, without the benefit of research or knowing who I was, snapped to that punch line, one of tens of thousands in her mind at age 75ish. Amazing.
She complimented the joke, asked about my writing and was so nice, as she was years earlier with an envelope of unsolicited material, worth about 21 dollars. I'll never ever forget her. I have told that story many times and my one wish was to tell my Phyllis Diller story to Phyllis Diller. I won't get that chance.
I'm sure I'm not the only person encouraged by her. I mean she paved the way for every female funny person who followed and many comedians in general I'm sure. RIP Phyllis Diller. I've always loved you. LEAVE COMMENTS.
For the podcast of this story, click here.
For other Larry Fedoruk features and blogs, click here.
After this pic, scroll down for some classic Phyllis Diller performance.