Phyllis Diller, a pioneer of female stand-up comedy, died Monday morning at her Los Angeles home surrounded by family, sources close to the comedienne said. She was 95.
“She died peacefully in her sleep and with a smile on her face,” longtime manager Milton Suchin told the Associated Press.
Her health had been declining since a recent fall which hurt her wrist and hip, sources told TMZ. She had been living in home hospice care.
She combined wild costumes, untamed hair and a raucous laugh with self-deprecating monologues to create one of comedy’s most popular characters.
Diller was famously caricatured as The Monster’s Mate in the 1967 Rankin-Bass stop-motion movie Mad Monster Party. She voiced the Queen in the 1997 Pixar film A Bug’s Life. Among her other cartoon movies were The Nutcracker Prince (1990, as Mousequeen), Happily Ever After (1990, as Mother Nature) and Casper’s Scare School (2006, as Aunt Spitzy).
In 2008, she starred alongside Debbie Reynolds as the voice of Pelops (the Donkey) in Chinese studio Santoon Productions’ animated feature film Light of Olympia.
As well, she voiced the Sugar Plum Fairy in the direct-to-video The Nuttiest Nutcracker (1999).
She voiced herself in the Robot Chicken episodes “Operation: Rich in Spirit” and “Easter Basket,” Mrs. Claus in “Easter Basket” and “Robot Chicken Christmas Special,” Hooker in “Easter Basket,” and Mrs. Dorsey in “Operation: Rich in Spirit.”
In Family Guy, she guested as Peter’s mother, Thelma Griffin, in the episodes “Mother Tucker” (2006), “Peter’s Two Dads” (2007) and “Padre de Familia” (2007). The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius cast her as Grandma Neutron in 2002′s “Granny Baby” and 2004′s “Maternotron Knows Best“/”Send In the Clones.”
Other voice roles were in Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (1973; as Detective Phyllis Dexter in “The Lady Detective“), Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990; Dr. Jane Goodair in “Smog Hog“), Cow and Chicken (1997; Red’s Mom in “Professor Longhorn Steer“), Hey Arnold! (1996; Aunt Mitzi in “Grandpa’s Sister“), The Powerpuff Girls (1998; Mask Scara in “A Made Up Story“), Animaniacs (1998; Suzie Squirrel in “The Sunshine Squirrels“), The Wild Thornberrys (1999; Sam in “Two’s Company“), and King of the Hill (1999; Lillian in “Escape From Party Island“).
In live action, she hosted “Spooks and Magic,” a 1972 episode of Disney’s The Mouse Factory, and appeared in the 1989 TV special A Yabba-Dabba-Doo Celebration!: 50 Years of Hanna-Barbera.
Diller was fitted with a pacemaker after suffering a 1999 heart attack.
Phyllis Ada Driver was born in Lima, Ohio on July 17, 1917. She began her career in 1952. A 1955 club booking skyrocketed her to success: scheduled for two weeks, she stayed 89.
Diller made her television debut in 1958 as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s game show You Bet Your Life. After moving to Webster Groves, Missouri in 1961, Diller honed her act in St. Louis clubs such as Gaslight Square’s Crystal Palace.
She became famous with her 1960s TV specials alongside Bob Hope. Later that decade, she starred in The Phyllis Diller Show, as well as a variety show called The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. In addition, she was also a regular on Laugh In.
After well-publicized plastic surgery, Diller posed for Playboy. However, the photos remained unpublished.
Diller told a filthy joke in the 2005 movie The Aristocrats.
She “broke the way for every woman comedian,” Joan Rivers said during a recent appearance on Watch What Happens Live.
In addition to her television, film and stage work, Diller made five records, wrote four best-selling books, and performed on piano with over 100 symphony orchestras.
Her two marriages — to Sherwood Anderson Diller from 1939 to 1965 and actor-singer Warde Donovan from 1965 to 1975 — ended in divorce. She constantly mentioned her fictional husband “Fang” in her stand-up act. Her partner, lawyer Rob Hastings, died in 1996.
Phyllis Dinner was predeceased by two sons and a daughter. She is survived by daughters Sally and Suzanne, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Plans for services are pending.