Phyllis Diller (July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012) was an American actress and comedienne. She created a stage persona of a wild-haired and eccentrically dressed housewife who made self-deprecating jokes about her age and appearance, her terrible cooking, and a husband named "Fang", while pretending to smoke from a long cigarette holder.
Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, the only child of Frances Ada (née Romshe; January 12, 1881 – January 26, 1949) and Perry Marcus Driver (June 13, 1862 – August 12, 1948), an insurance agent. She had German and Irish ancestry (the surname "Driver" had been changed from "Treiber" several generations earlier).
Diller was born to older parents; her father was 55 and her mother 35. Though raised a Methodist, Diller was a lifelong atheist. She attended Lima's Central High School, then studied piano for three years at the Sherwood Music Conservatory of Columbia College Chicago before transferring to Bluffton College, where she met fellow "Lima-ite" and classmate Hugh Downs.
Diller was a housewife, mother, and advertising copywriter. During World War II, she lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan, while her husband worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant. In the mid-1950s, she made appearances on The Jack Paar Show and was a contestant on Groucho Marx's quiz show You Bet Your Life.
Although she made her career in comedy, Diller had studied the piano for many years. She decided against a career in music after hearing her teachers and mentors play with much more skill than she thought that she would be able to achieve. She still played in her private life, however, and owned a custom-made harpsichord.
Along with Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Mort Sahl, Diller was part of the so-called "New Wave" comedians who began their careers after WWII and had no connections to vaudeville.