Phyllis Diller is full of laughs at age 89 and isn't ready to be saying goodbye

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- At the age of 89, Phyllis Diller is saying good night but not goodbye.

Diller, the subject of a new DVD that celebrates her life and documents her final standup performance in 2002, says she simply got too old to keep traveling from city to city. But, hey, if you've got a movie role in mind, give her a call.

"Look, if it's a little old lady, I get the role," she says, breaking into that famous Diller laugh, the one that sounds something like AHHH! AHHH! AHHH AHHH!

"I've just done a couple movies where I died and they loved it. Because without my wig I look dead! AHHH! AHHH! AHHH AHHH!"

Still, she has had to turn down some roles because they were too big and required more work than she could handle.

"I have energy, but I don't have lasting energy," says Diller, who had a pacemaker installed after a near-fatal heart attack in 1999. "I could do maybe two hours, but beyond that I can't. And you have to know your limitations."

Funny thing is, Diller never seemed to accept any limitations when, against the odds, she became one of the most famous comedians of her time. Her lighthearted routines about married suburban life as a living hell were making her husband, "Fang," a household name when Roseanne Barr was barely out of diapers.

"The very first female comedian that I ever heard of," Bonnie Hunt says in the affectionate new documentary "Goodnight, We Love You."

"There weren't any," Diller replies when asked to name the other female comics working the standup circuit when she broke in at San Francisco's Purple Onion in 1956.

Standup comedy was, she says now, something she was born to do, although only her first husband, Sherwood Diller, seemed to know it at the time. He found his wife so funny that he nagged her for two years to quit her job as an advertising copywriter and become a comic.

"We had five kids at the time. I don't how he thought we'd handle that," she says seriously.

Then, breaking into the Diller persona the world knows, she adds merrily: "In fact, that's what I kept saying for two years. 'We've got these kids here.' He said, 'Send 'em home.' I said, 'We can't. They're ours.' AHHH, AHHH, AHHH AHHH."

As to the secret of her longevity, she adds: "Be happy and smile and laugh and get enough sleep and drink your eight glasses of water a day. And be honest and truthful. And save your money. You know the best way to double your money? Fold it and put it in your pocket."

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