In Remembrance: Phyllis Diller in Game Shows
Phyllis Diller, one of America’s pioneering comediennes on stage and screen, died in her home today at the age of 95. Known in her routines for her remarkable laugh and her ability to make fun of herself, her home life and her ominous husband simply known as “Fang,” Diller had been a staple in entertainment media since the early 1950s. Her stand-up comedy act was what made her most notable, but she was featured on many, many television programs throughout her career. Even though her humor could command an audience’s attention, she never found herself in many successful starring roles, instead finding much accomplishment infusing her comedy as a guest star, sidekick or panelist. That’s just the sort of thing that worked on traditional game shows and Diller was a fixture in that genre for many, many years.
Phyllis’ first television appearance was actually as a contestant on the Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life in 1958. As she made her name more known, she made more appearances on panel shows, showing up often on I’ve Got a Secret, as a sometimes-panelist, sometimes-mystery guest on What’s My Line? in the 1960s and a player on the original The Match Game in the 1960s. She was not much of a fixture in the 70s, but as she regained popularity in the 1980s as a nostalgic comedienne who still “had it,” her appearances became very frequent. She was a quick-witted panelist on Match Game, participant with husband Warde Donovan on TattleTales, played with a team of “Perfect 10s” for charity on Celebrity Family Feud, helped out contestants on Hot Potato, was a celebrity charades participant on Body Language and helped convey clues on Super Password. Her most recent stop-by was as the celebrity secret on GSN’s 2006 I’ve Got a Secret revival. As a game show panelist, what she is likely most notable for is her appearances on Hollywood Squares. Phyllis Diller has appeared on every traditional version of Hollywood Squares from the 1960s to the 2000s, including the short-lived Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour in 1983.
Her instincts as a comedienne allowed her to shine on many of the great game shows. Things like†Match Game and†Hollywood Squares were natural fits as she could throw zingers and barbs quicker than almost anyone. Shows like†Password allowed her to exercise her ability to think quickly on her feet,† helping contestants to a lot of money. She is absolutely a treasure of American comedy and her legacy will be everlasting. Some of her game show moments and experiences are embedded below and we invite you to watch them to enjoy some of her funniest and sharpest moments in a genre she excelled in. We also invite you to share some of your favorite Phyllis Diller game show memories in the comments selection below these clips. A very funny woman has left us today, but her spirit lives on in many recorded forms.
Phyllis Diller as a contestant on You Bet Your Life (with remarks from her):
Phyllis Diller as a highly recognizable What’s My Line? Mystery Guest:
Phyllis Diller gives more than she bargained for on TattleTales:
Phyllis Diller as the center square on a full Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour:
Phyllis’ team takes on Richard Simmons’ team on All-Star Family Feud:
Phyllis Diller letting her wig infest her mind on Celebrity Hot Potato:
Phyllis Diller helps a Super Password contestant play for $25,000 in 1989: