A Reboot of Comedy Classics

Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!


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Are You Ready For Phyllis Diller?!

Are You Ready For Phyllis Diller?!

The first housewife to break out of the mold, Phyllis Diller broke into the scene with her famous one-liners, fright wigs, and out of this world costumes! Phyllis is the first female stand up comedian, paving the way for all those who came after her. She loved getting plastic surgery and was known as the queen of the gays. She became friends with Bob Hope and traveled the world with him doing comedy. Listen in as Dave, Kelly, and Tom introduce us to the amazing Phyllis Diller!

Watch Phyllis Diller on The Grouch Marx Show! This is where she was first noticed that led to her fame and fortune!

In this episode, we talk about her 1962 album Are You Ready For Phyllis Diller? You can listen to her album HERE

Follow our show hosts!

Logan Rishaw

Instagram: @loganrishaw

Twitter: @logansaidthis

Kelly Thewlis

@kellythewlis on FB, Twitter and Instagram

Tom Megalis

http://www.tommegalis.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tom.megalis

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http://linkedin.com/in/tommegalis

Dave Schwensen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaveSchwensen

Twitter: @thecomedybook

Facebook “How To Be A Working Comic” Page:

https://www.facebook.com/How-To-Be-A-Working-Comic-129300133778009/


Dave Schwensen:
Hi. Welcome back to, What's so funny! We've got a new season of comedy ready to go for you. It's a different format. We've got the same era, '50s, '60s, and '70s laughs. And the comedian we're talking about today is, Phyllis Diller.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Hey, Tom. Hey, Kelly.

Kelly Thewlis:
Dave, Tom.

Tom Megalis:
Wait guys.

Dave Schwensen:
It's great to be back with you. How's everybody?

Tom Megalis:
It's exciting.

Dave Schwensen:
Yep. We're here to laugh, and I'm going to tell you what, we're talking about one of, I know one of my personal favorites, an icon of comedy is Phyllis Diller.

Kelly Thewlis:
Absolutely.

Tom Megalis:
Pioneer, man. Right?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I mean, she's been around, she was around for a long time. And she's given credit for really groundbreaking stuff for female comedians. I mean, she was one of the first.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Well, I mean, back then, if you look back and research it a little bit, there was Jean Carroll, who was a female comic, who really was like the first. If you look at those early videos, like in the '40s and '50s, no women were in comedy. It was like, "A woman shouldn't be in a nightclub at night, with men and booze."

Kelly Thewlis:
There was nobody for her to connect with. There was just no female comedians out there working with her. It was Jean Carroll, and Moms Maybley, and her.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I was going to say Moms, but that was a whole different circuit. I mean-

Tom Megalis:
Long time back.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. I mean, they were segregated, they were playing different clubs, everything like that, a horrible time actually. Jean Carroll, now if you watch her, I've gone back and looked at some of her videos, very, very similar to Phyllis Diller in her delivery. However, the great thing that I like about Phyllis, is she just makes fun of herself.

Tom Megalis:
She laughs at herself constantly, it's funny.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. But even her outfits. I mean, Jean Carroll came out and she looked nice.

Tom Megalis:
She was elegant.

Dave Schwensen:
Phyllis came out with a fright wig, with sacks that she wore for dresses, and the gloves. I mean, she was a prop comic when you think about it.

Tom Megalis:
A spectacle. I love how she said she was considered a gay icon because she said, "My first audience were gay people because they have a great sense of humor. Love comedy, and they love to laugh."

Kelly Thewlis:
She's like, "And how do you think they got the word, gay, put on them?" It's like-

Tom Megalis:
Exactly. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
She's just such a great, great inspiration of a person, and so loving to all of her audience.

Dave Schwensen:
And the thing is, she didn't start her career until real late.

Tom Megalis:
1937, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, she was 37, 38 years old-

Tom Megalis:
With six kids.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. And she was the housewife, she broke out of the mold. She said that she had this feeling all along that she could do this, that she could be somebody. Actually, her first husband encouraged her to go on stage because she was doing her bits for the PTA, you know?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, and he encouraged her to go on the ... in San Francisco.

Kelly Thewlis:
Because she really got her notice on the Groucho Marx's game show, You bet your life. She talks about that, that the Blue Angel Club is where she was working at that time of the show, that sort of was the show that made her get noticed on a national level.

Dave Schwensen:
That was her first national television appearance of, Groucho Marx, You bet your life. And if you haven't, it's on YouTube, people can watch these things.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I've loved watching that because first of all, you're not going to believe it's Phyllis Diller. And she seems so ... I don't want to say like-

Kelly Thewlis:
Shy, almost.

Dave Schwensen:
... shy.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Yeah, she does.

Dave Schwensen:
She's out there. She's like, "Huh?" And she's got her head down, she's not sure. And Groucho Marx, he's an icon himself, I mean, you don't want to trade wisecracks with Groucho Marx.

Kelly Thewlis:
No, he was quick, man.

Dave Schwensen:
And there she is. And he's like, "Okay." She goes, "You're an entertainer? Well, entertain." "Do you want to do your act?" She goes, "Well, all right," and then she does. And at the end she gets him. Groucho was like, "Wow, I ..." I think he's serious, like, "Wow, she is kind of funny." He wasn't expecting that when she started.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. He's got this great smile on his face. I mean, almost it starts out where he's like, "I dare you to do your act." And then she does it and you just see this huge smile on his face at the end, like, "Wow. Okay." I mean, he doesn't laugh, but what comedian laughs at jokes [inaudible 00:04:32] at that level, he's not really laughing at any comedian's jokes because he knows what's happening. But he was impressed.

Dave Schwensen:
And the fact that she did that with Groucho Marx, who's from another era of comedy, that there were no women stand-up comedians back when he and his brothers were on Vaudeville, and touring, and all that stuff. And he's like, "Yeah, come on. Show me what you got." And she does. I love that. I love that moment. I love watching that clip. And then she actually walked away winning $500.

Tom Megalis:
See, that's a ton of money back then.

Dave Schwensen:
They were going for 10,000, but didn't get it.

Tom Megalis:
You've got to give her husband some credit though. I mean, especially during that time to say, "Go. I support you. Do it. You need to do this."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, well. Well ...

Tom Megalis:
"And even though we have five, six kids," I mean-

Dave Schwensen:
Well, she hated this guy. She didn't like him because-

Tom Megalis:
She called him, Fang later, I think, became his name.

Dave Schwensen:
He was a failed businessman, and she said ... One of her famous lines is, "I went to become a stand-up comedian because I had a sit-down husband."

Tom Megalis:
Well maybe, yeah, maybe he saw a gravy train, like, "You go to work, honey. You're funny. Go make the people laugh so we can collect money." It might've been that right? Right?

Dave Schwensen:
She was born in Lima.

Tom Megalis:
1917.

Dave Schwensen:
Lima, Ohio, and she raved about Lima. Even the very last interview of her life, she was getting an award from the people of Lima. Okay?

Tom Megalis:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
She says, "Everyone should grow up in Lima. Everyone should have a childhood in Lima." However, I did read that her parents were older when she was born.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, her dad was like 55 when she was born.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. So there was a disconnect is what I've read. That she pretty much had to entertain herself.

Kelly Thewlis:
Probably how she became such a entertainer for all.

Tom Megalis:
I can relate a little to that because I saw that note at one point, and I thought, "My dad was 65 when I was born."

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, whoa.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Tom Megalis:
My mother was 35. Yeah, 30 years difference, so it was like-

Dave Schwensen:
Oh wow, good thing you didn't say, "She was 17."

Tom Megalis:
No. Well, it's like, he was 58 when they got married and she was 28. And he wasn't a rich Greek shipping magnate, but when I saw that note there, that an older father and a younger mother, I thought, "That's a different dynamic that happens in the home, and it's a different ... having an older father." She had a fondness for Lima, which is cool, the simplicity of that early life.

Dave Schwensen:
And the thing I found interesting also, is that she started out to be a musician. She was a-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
She was a great pianist, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, she was classically trained. She went to college for that in Chicago. I think, she studied three years to be a classical pianist. And the thing was, that I read this somewhere, that she saw how good her professors were, and she thought she could never be that good.

Tom Megalis:
Isn't that something.

Dave Schwensen:
So she came back to Ohio, went to Bluffton College.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Oh, returned home, back to Ohio.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Well, Kelly, you came back to Ohio.

Kelly Thewlis:
I did, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
You were in Los Angeles. We can relate to her.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, a little bit, I can. But I think that's interesting because she has a very self deprecating humor. And it's almost like that note shows that maybe it wasn't all just humor. I mean, the fact that she loved her professors and was like, "Well, I could never be that good, so I'm out of here," that's interesting. But she was able to spin that and then make herself this grand joke to all. And I don't know, I really admire that.

Dave Schwensen:
In the beginning she was pretty much a prop comic. She made fun of her looks, and I'm not going to say she looked funny, but she did not like the way she looked. She had so many plastic surgeries over her career, and she talked about it all the time. I remember one joke of hers, she finally told Bob Hope, I don't know how many facelifts she had. And he says, "Well, I'll tell you, Phyllis, I liked all of them. I liked all your faces."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Well, she didn't look too bad. I mean, she was in her nineties and still working, right?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. But when she went on stage, we'll go back, like the Blue Angel and the hungry i, she went up there, she didn't know what to do, so she really wore those outrageous dresses that she created or whatever. Colorful and just-

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, flashy.

Dave Schwensen:
... out there. Flashy.

Kelly Thewlis:
That prop cigarette, because she didn't actually smoke.

Dave Schwensen:
No, she never smoked.

Kelly Thewlis:
She had that prop cigarette holder.

Dave Schwensen:
She had a cigarette made out of wood. She wore the gloves, she had the gloves on like the debutantes. The look, and the fright wig, and everything, and that's how she went out and she made fun of herself. And that cackle of a laugh.

Tom Megalis:
You know, I think sometimes when you create a character that you can hide behind a little bit, you're liberated. So I think maybe that, if she was maybe shy, and you were talking about her being a little bit shy, and if you create this persona and it's like, "This is me now, hitting the stage," and then you can shed it. I don't know if she did shed it.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think you're very right about that, Tom, because you saw that in that Groucho Marx clip where, when she was just herself being on this game show, she was shy. And then as soon as Groucho Marx was like, "Why don't you do your act?" You saw the confidence break out.

Tom Megalis:
Boom.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it was even more so when she put on the costume of that character that she had.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Like we said, fake hair, flashy jewelry, she was just very out there. I don't think we actually mentioned this before, this episode is anchored around a specific album. Did we say that?

Dave Schwensen:
No, I don't think we did. I think we forgot that.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's a new format for us. But yeah, we're anchoring this around the, Are you ready for Phyllis Diller? which took place in 1962. And I bring it up because there is a really great joke in there, where she talks about ... right up from the bat, she's like, "Let me talk about the way I dress. The women in the audience might wonder why I'm dressed like this." She goes, "I just want to let you know it's the Jackie look, Jackie Gleason."

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
It was the guy's television [inaudible 00:10:09] talked about.

Tom Megalis:
It wasn't Jackie Onassis, for sure.

Kelly Thewlis:
No. No.

Tom Megalis:
Right.

Kelly Thewlis:
The popular look of the time, it was Jackie Gleason.

Dave Schwensen:
And you know what else is interesting about that album because, and Kelly and Tom, we were talking about the Groucho Marx segment she did. And this is how comics really develop their material. It's not anything overnight, Phyllis really worked on writing jokes. She wrote her own material. I mean, she just worked out ... Here's the thing, you might not have noticed this, go back and watch the Groucho Marx interview she did in 1958 and she'll talk about flying on cheap airlines. And the stewardess, not flight attendant, the stewardess was 80 something years old, she was one of the original Wright sisters, she called herself. And she said little things, she said also like, "How long will it take us to get to Los Angeles?" The stewardess says, "I don't know, we've never made it yet." Anyway, that material that she did for Groucho Marx on the Groucho ... some of it-

Tom Megalis:
Made it home.

Dave Schwensen:
... the base of that, is on that album.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, that she was working it then, working the material.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. That was five years later.

Tom Megalis:
And they were one-liners, like a "Boom," a set-up jokes, except they really, really quick little bits. That album feels like one continuous monologue, but it's joke after joke, after joke, after joke, you know?

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Tom Megalis:
They're not like these long stories or bits. Right, Kelly and Dave? They're not like where you can go, "This is her airline bit." I didn't know where that began and ended there, but it's just little things, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

Kelly Thewlis:
When I was listening to it, I was like, "Okay, so I'm still on track maybe, two?" And it was like, "Oh no, I'm on track 16." You get so short of track, they're such quick jokes.

Dave Schwensen:
And even she says about the club that she's performing at, hungry i, it's a dump. And she says, she wants to stay on stage because the dressing room's so bad, she doesn't want to go back there again.

Kelly Thewlis:
One of the other notes that you hear in stand-up comedy is like, "Don't make fun of the club. Like whatever you do, don't make fun of the club. You know, they're the ones paying you. Don't bite the hand that feeds you kind of thing." [inaudible 00:12:09] fox out right from the start, and she's like, "Oh my God, this place. Don't eat here."

Tom Megalis:
"What a dump."

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. "Don't ever eat here."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, but let me chime in on that because it is a business too. If you're putting paying customers in the seats, and you're doing it by making fun of the club and they're laughing and everybody's still ordering, they don't mind. She was the type, she had the talent, she would go on stage, she could pick a subject, okay? She would talk about her skinny legs, okay? Or she would talk about her overweight mother-in-law. And this is funny about Phyllis Diller because if you watch some of the clips, she performed until she was in her nineties, all right? I'm pretty sure she went on, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for her ninetieth birthday, or somewhere around there. And she comes out and she goes, "And now my mother-in-law ..." and she was quite upset because-

Tom Megalis:
She's 125.

Dave Schwensen:
But then she'll talk about her mother-in-law being, and it's not politically correct, but she'll call her fat. All right?

Tom Megalis:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Schwensen:
She was overweight. And she'll do five minutes of these fat jokes, one after another, after another, after ... I mean, one-liners, and it doesn't stop. And you see that in, not a lot, but these older comics are influences to the newer ones. So I can look at some of the female comics out there that I've known for years, I could say, "Wow. They've been listening into Phyllis Diller when they were little." Just like some of them listened to other people, and it's the one-liners and the taglines. And she was just amazing. And when she went to that hungry i, she went there to audition one night and they loved her so much. And I read this somewhere, they kept her for 89 straight weeks or something ridiculous like that.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh my God.

Dave Schwensen:
She was there every week. And I think that's where she was seen for, The Jack Paar Show. I think that's where she really started getting attention. She was on the ... The Jack Paar was before Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show. And she was on that about 30 times or something. Yeah, it just took off from there so, I mean, she was just a national right away. I mean, I don't want to say, "Overnight success." but ... She donated her archives, if you want to call it, her files with all her jokes. I mean, we're talking, I don't know, 50,000 jokes on note cards, it's ridiculous.

Tom Megalis:
Man, that's amazing. Well, it's like Bob Hope had just an arsenal. Even though I think he had writers, but-

Kelly Thewlis:
Tom, it's interesting you bought up Bob Hope because they actually worked together quite a bit. They met and, oh gosh, they did 23 TV shows, or episodes I should say. Three movies. She toured with him through Vietnam [crosstalk 00:14:33]

Tom Megalis:
Oh yeah, did-

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. I think they probably just saw, recognized game. They saw each other with the same sort of similar formats, and powerhouses of joke writers, and just hit it off.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, she has a great story about the first time they met-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, really?

Dave Schwensen:
... because she was a fan of his. I think, she said she listened to him on the radio and all this stuff, and he was a big deal and she would go see him. And she was doing a performance somewhere one night, and they said, "Bob Hope is in the audience." She had never met him yet. And she went out and she bombed.

Tom Megalis:
Oh geez. Oh geez.

Dave Schwensen:
And here's what a professional she was because she says, "It's not the audience's fault." She says, "Bad comics blame the audience."

Kelly Thewlis:
Right?

Dave Schwensen:
She said, "No, they just had a different personality that she couldn't gel with," or however it was, but she was hired to do her act, so she went out and did it. And she said it was horrible because nobody laughed. Nobody laughed-

Tom Megalis:
It wasn't her crowd, yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
That's the worst crowd, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
It wasn't her crowd, and then afterwards she went backstage, and there was a note came back, it said, "Bob Hope really wanted to meet her," he thought she was hysterical.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow.

Dave Schwensen:
And she said, that's why she took to him so much because if he thought she was funny when she was bombing, what's going to happen when she's killing it?

Tom Megalis:
I guess, he just saw the material in her presence, and her persona, and thought, "Yeah, these guys don't get it. This isn't your crowd. We'll get some people that get you," maybe.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
They certainly did and it's ... But yeah, hey, he's another Ohio guy. See, it's the Ohio people are funny.

Kelly Thewlis:
You know, Ohio, we're very funny, we're funny people here. When I first moved out to Los Angeles, I thought I was such a novelty of like, "Oh, I'm from Ohio." I was on a set and a stunt guy literally laughed in my face, and he was like, "Everyone is from Ohio."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I find the same thing.

Kelly Thewlis:
And I find a lot of people from Ohio working in the entertainment industry.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. When I moved out to Los Angeles, one of the first neighborhoods I lived in or something, I remember walking around, there was a guy walking around wearing a Cleveland Indians jacket.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm like, "Well, who the heck is this guy?" and I didn't find till I went ... And again, I came out from New York, so I did not know the Los Angeles comedians and stuff. Anyway, the guy showed up at the improv, it was Drew Carey.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. See, there's Drew. Cleveland again.

Dave Schwensen:
The interviews, her friends that talked about her, I mean, she was close with say, Joan Rivers, and so many other ... Roseanne, she was tight with Roseanne, and they all talked about what a really classy lady she was. And what she was doing on stage was her act. That was her schtick.

Tom Megalis:
Well, Joan Rivers, said, "She came at a time when you had to be outlandish like that," which was kind of weird that ... She said, "Now she would be able to be elegant and beautiful as she really is." And I'm like, "Well, that was Joan's thing. Joan wanted it to be beautiful, and it worked." But Phyllis, that was her thing. It was a character and I think it would ... Thank God she did it, you know?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
... because I think that it resonates, and it was a strong character.

Dave Schwensen:
She was known for her cosmetic surgery, it's no secret. She was a champion of that. She got awards from plastic surgeons-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh my gosh.

Dave Schwensen:
... because people kept that hidden back in the '50s and the '60s. You weren't supposed to let anyone know you got a nose job, or a facelift, or anything. And she kept going back, and she would talk about it on stage. And it brought it out to the open where it was, instead of being something to be embarrassed about, if you don't like your nose, get it fixed. If you don't like the wrinkles, get your face lift.

Tom Megalis:
She was multi-layered too. As a-

Kelly Thewlis:
I hear, in many ways. Well she also, she did film. She did TV and film. She was starred in, Splendor in the grass. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in's, she did a lot of skits on that. And she did, Broadway, as well. 1971.

Dave Schwensen:
Hello, Dolly!

Kelly Thewlis:
She did, Hello, Dolly! Yeah, she did.

Tom Megalis:
She did Hello, Dolly! Imagine that?

Kelly Thewlis:
Right, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
It's like, because you think of Carol Channing doing that, who was also a crazy big character. Are people developing ... I mean, I think in current times, is character development as a stand-up, it's gone away from that a little bit, hasn't it? Where you are putting on a persona like-

Dave Schwensen:
I think so.

Tom Megalis:
... Pee Wee, or even what's his name? "Git-R-Done," guy, man. That guy who's ... what's it?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, Larry, Larry the cable guy.

Tom Megalis:
Larry the cable guy, yeah. I mean, these characters that you create, and I just wonder if it's swinging back towards more reality in like, being real. I don't know, it's-

Dave Schwensen:
I don't know. Everything goes through phases. I always compare a comedy to music, there's different phases, and everybody influences everyone. When you get into comedy, it's not like you have to reinvent the wheel, all right?

Tom Megalis:
Yep.

Dave Schwensen:
And it's the same thing with music, the ones who are out there playing now, you look back and you see Michael Jackson, then the Beatles, and then Muddy Waters, and Elvis, and all, it all comes from one place. Phyllis was a groundbreaker. She was the one who influenced the ones who came after her.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, there's no doubt. Like you mentioned, like Roseanne, and Joan-

Kelly Thewlis:
Ellen DeGeneres.

Tom Megalis:
Ellen DeGeneres.

Kelly Thewlis:
Lily Tomlin even.

Dave Schwensen:
The one thing I do want to point out about Phyllis, and I've mentioned this a couple times through this conversation, that laugh of hers. That cackle, that she would call it.

Tom Megalis:
No one did that.

Dave Schwensen:
I'll tell you what, nobody did that. And here's something, this is what I love when I interview comedians, and talk with comedians and stuff, because a lot of them will say like, "Don't ever laugh at your own jokes. Don't go up there and laugh, let the audience laugh." And then there's others that I just love, that can't help but laugh at themselves because they know it's funny, and Phyllis was one of those. If you watch her, she'll say ... So, she'll be doing these one-liners, she'll do a string of them. She'd get about seven or eight and all of a sudden the one she just said, just hits her as funny. And she has that laugh ... whatever she did.

Dave Schwensen:
And the thing I thought was so amazing, I watched her final interview she ever did. It was only a couple months before she passed away, and she was very, very old. I mean, it was obvious, and she was talking about being in Lima. But a couple times during her interview, she did that laugh. And I thought, "My gosh-"

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, that ...

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
It was that sort of, yeah ...

Dave Schwensen:
There's this 90 something year old woman and she looked beautiful. And she had her wig on, she was dressed up, she's sitting around with her artwork, and she did that laugh, and I thought, "There you go, that's Phyllis Diller.

Tom Megalis:
Well, it became her signature, and she also did it sometimes before the jokes. If you listen, you're like ...

Kelly Thewlis:
You're right.

Tom Megalis:
... she'll laugh before she does the bit, and you're like, "What the hell?" But isn't it something, it's kind of a cue sometimes, that this is funny. I mean, some of those people laugh when other people laugh, and so people would laugh at her laugh. So was like, "I'm priming the well a little bit. You're going to laugh here, guys."

Dave Schwensen:
I, just from the time that I saw her, and I saw her another time too, by the way, but I did see her, it was like she was having fun. I never took it as being an act, I mean, she could stand, she could talk to the crowd. And if she saw if she got the crowd, then she would laugh with them. Back when I worked in Los Angeles, when I was working in the comedy industry, I would go to the American Comedy Awards. I was there in, well, back in 1992, folks, when Phyllis Diller got the lifetime achievement award. I watched her on the stage, come out and get her award and everything. And it was just a thrill because and every ... I mean, the room was filled with every comedian you can think of. I was lucky to be there because I happened to work for the improv. It was just amazing.

Dave Schwensen:
She came out and she got this award, and everybody felt, if anyone ever deserved an award like this, it was Phyllis Diller. And it was a lifetime achievement award.

Tom Megalis:
She toured under, I thought, as a pianist, under the name of Dame Illya Dillya or something, from '72 to '82, so toured as a pianist. Said, "I'm going to do this now for a little bit, and show you that I can play this thing."

Dave Schwensen:
And with orchestras. It was with orchestras, not just playing the piano on stage, she toured with orchestras and was seriously ... It was funny between the songs, she made funny bits, and jokes and things. But when they played, she actually played, that's what she was trained to do.

Tom Megalis:
Isn't that something, man? That was her bread and butter, it was the comedy, but these other things had to keep happening and still creating. And I think that it helps keep her alive and creative, even into her last and ninth decade.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think, one of my most favorite random things that she did, was she became the honorary mayor of Brentwood.

Tom Megalis:
That's cool, isn't it?

Kelly Thewlis:
I mean, just how completely random that is. Yeah, that was in 2012, they gave her that honor. It was right before she passed away. She passed away in 2012.

Tom Megalis:
Oh my God, make you a mayor.

Kelly Thewlis:
At 95, she became the honorary mayor of a city.

Dave Schwensen:
You know, she had a sitcom for a while, I don't think people realized that.

Kelly Thewlis:
I didn't even realize that.

Dave Schwensen:
Sometime in the late 1960s, I think it was, I don't remember. Again, this stuff I have to go back and look at. I think it was called, The Pruitts of Southampton, and it was an ... And again, you're going back ... I'm a historian when it comes to entertainment, in a way. I follow this stuff. At that time, there was a big show on TV called, The Beverly Hillbillies-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
... where they made all this money and moved out to Beverly Hills. Well, this was an opposite, where there was this real rich family and they lost everything, and Phyllis Diller was the head of the family.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, wow.

Kelly Thewlis:
Funny.

Dave Schwensen:
So, they lived at this big elegant mansion with servants, but they were broke.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. It's like Schitt's Creek a little bit.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Okay, there you go.

Kelly Thewlis:
See, no original ideas-

Tom Megalis:
No.

Kelly Thewlis:
... everyone's reinventing the wheel, even-

Dave Schwensen:
But I've seen the clips.

Tom Megalis:
I've got to check that out because I've never seen ... Was she in character?

Dave Schwensen:
She was Phyllis Diller. If you watch the opening things-

Tom Megalis:
Okay, I'm going to watch this.

Dave Schwensen:
... she comes out with her ... I mean, she's got her wig on, and the cigarette holder, and the gloves because she's supposed to be the ... She's playing the Phyllis Diller character but, of course, she's playing her as being, "Glamorous, baby. Everything is wonderful. Here we are. I'm in this big mansion." "Oh, you're broke." "Don't tell anybody."

Tom Megalis:
See, You never know how that's going to twist and how that's going to work, right? Because it's up to the public at that time. You had, Beverly Hillbillies. You had, Green Acres. You had things that were kind of mixes of that.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah a lot of, fish out of water, comedies-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
... at that time.

Tom Megalis:
It just didn't work. But she gave it a shot. Who cares? She went back to comedy, stand-up.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. She went on and made more movies with Bob Hope and everything after that.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it's funny, it really is. It still holds up. I mean, like I said, it's the same kind of humor that you would see people doing on Instagram, or on stage right now. It's very funny. There's maybe, a few jokes that are a little dated, but for the most part, it really holds up.

Tom Megalis:
And I see a little, Amy Sedaris, in-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, it's like she does a little bit of her bit, and you go, "Wow, Amy was influenced by her," you could tell.

Kelly Thewlis:
Sure. There's so many, so many, great [crosstalk 00:25:09]-

Tom Megalis:
So many.

Kelly Thewlis:
... of our time right now. You can see that.

Tom Megalis:
Guys, this has been a blast.

Kelly Thewlis:
I really has.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's so fun talking to you guys.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Well, I love this new format because we're sending people out to listen. I urge our listeners, look up Phyllis Diller. If you're not familiar with her, maybe some of our younger people are not familiar with Phyllis, she's an icon.

Dave Schwensen:
Well I'm going to say, Kelly and Tom, it's been great talking with you again.

Kelly Thewlis:
Great talking to you too, Dave, Tom.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, this time went real fast.

Kelly Thewlis:
It did.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm looking forward to our next episode, what we're going to come up with. Well, if you guys want to say goodbye.

Tom Megalis:
Bye-bye.

Kelly Thewlis:
Bye.

Dave Schwensen:
Goodbye. Okay, I'm Dave Schwensen, I'll say, "Goodbye." Yeah, thank you. It's been, What's so funny! And until next time, keep laughing.

Speaker 1:
Thanks for listening to, What's so funny! That's all we have for you for now. Be sure to check back in for the next season of comedy classics. Special thanks to Executive Producers, Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia. Producer, Sarah Willgrube, and Audio Engineer, Eric Koltnow.

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