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Like a Lampshade In a Whorehouse: My Life In Comedy Paperback – February 16, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brash comedy and a surprising bitterness fuel this unsparing account of Diller's drive to make it big. Born to elderly parents in Lima, Ohio, in 1917, Phyllis Ada Driver was blessed with neither beauty nor wealth. At 20--and already pregnant--she married Sherwood Diller, a handsome, selfish ne'er-do-well who became the "Fang" in her comic monologues of domestic life; the couple had five children. Nearly 40 when she began her performing career, Diller turned a knack for relentless self-deprecation into a nightclub act. She performed in The Poets' Follies of 1955 with poet/painter/composer Weldon Kees and Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But women were a novelty in the bar-based world of stand-up comedy, and plenty of humiliating club engagements ensued. Diller persisted, though, and while her male colleagues (Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce) were pioneering 1950s "insult comedy," she turned the venom on herself and reaped its rewards. Eventually shedding her dud husband, Diller became a superstar--and the first one to go public about her plastic surgery ("I was a walking billboard for plastic surgery," she observes wryly). Retired from show business since 2002, Diller retains a dedicated fan base and an enormous interest in the world that spawned her. And considering she's the original "He's just not into me" girl, a pioneering desperate housewife, might this be the time to launch a comeback?
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Phyllis Diller, the world’s first and foremost female standup comic, entertained audiences for over half a century with her pioneering, often self-penned material, zany looks, and trademark laugh in countless stage, film, and television appearances.

Richard Buskin is the New York Times-bestselling author of more than a dozen books. His articles have appeared in newspapers such as the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Observer, and The Independent. A native of London, he lives in Chicago.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (February 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585424765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585424764
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #780,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Gilbert VINE VOICE on July 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If living well is the best revenge, then it is hard to appreciate why Phyllis Diller spends a good portion of her latest autobiography settling scores with dozens of minor people whose names would have completely faded from history if not for her memoirs.

But then, for a woman who made a comedic career out of catastrophes and disappointments, perhaps this is her way of having the last laugh. Unfortunately, these bitter remembrances just aren't funny and mar an otherwise delightful book. Instead the story is jagged and a little too hard-edged and earns a solid three stars.

Penguin, however, has produced a beautiful book for Ms. Diller with a stunning bright orange cover with raised printing while the book underneath features a three-piece case binding with foil stamping. Even the ivory-colored paper inside is high-quality stuff. And I couldn't find one typo. The presentation reflects Penguin's star-quality regard for Diller giving this book an overall four-star rating.

When Diller focuses on her successes by highlighting colleagues (like Bob Hope) or good timing (like breaking in at a time when no other female comics offered serious competition) or techniques (like ending punch lines with consonants to emphasize the mock hostility), her story really entertains. But the book just isn't worth the hardcover admission price and I would recommend waiting for and buying the paperback version of Diller's story.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Blair Warren on February 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What do you think of when you hear the name Phyllis Diller? Funny jokes? Crazy wigs? Her infectious laugh? Well, that ain't the half of it.

Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse is the story of a woman who grabbed onto a dream and refused to let it go. Despite overwhelming odds, heartbreaking misfortune and lifelong personal insecurities, Phyllis Diller did what every one of us dreams of doing; she refused to accept her circumstances, decided exactly what she wanted to become and then became it. And best of all, she did it her way.

If you have ever dreamed of accomplishing something but allowed doubt to stop you from trying, read this book. It will touch your heart. It will make you laugh. But most important, it will help you find the strength you'll need to make your own dreams come true.

Thank you Ms. Diller. While I have admired your comedy for years, I will admire your tenacity forever.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brady Buchanan on March 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is so interesting to read about a multi talented person who is supremely successful where they reveal the downside parts of their life and wonder why they did what they did...but they did it. Like Phyllis Diller, I read a most wonderful book "The Magic of Believing" by Claude Bristol when I was in my early 20's that did change my life, but not to the extent that she transformed herself because of that book. Many miserable things happened to her traveling through her life journey, but she was always optimistic and overcame the adversities. This book has funny parts, however, it is really an autobiography and details the life of the author. A marvelous read and a story that should get more than 5 stars.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Akethan on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All done in a great mood and up-spirited fashion, Diller's autobiography covers a great deal of changes in her own life - but also cultural and historical changes in the world she found herself living and performing in.

Some reviewers have pointed to the fact that Diller never really gets down into the nitty gritty - she never dishes the deepest or possibly most insightful dirt on herself or those in her life (private or public). She gets and occasional dig in - but the book itself seems to stay on the high road. Her tone indicates - she's a grand dame who has survived some bizarre obstacles in life and now in her later years find herself in a very good place.

And I respect her decision to just keep it clean and enjoyable.

It's a smooth read - interspersed with samplings of some of her favorite work over the years.

For example: "What is the difference between and oral and a rectal thermometer?" [A: see review title]

I am passing this on to a friend immediately who could use a smile (and occasional belly laugh).
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Tom Bruce on June 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is not a bad book, but it's not great, either. After reading this autobiography, I still don't feel like I know who Ms. Diller is. She claims several times that she is an atheist. Yet, we get a number of "thank God"s and "God only knows" during the course of her telling, as well as a prayer that she wrote that she claims "paid dividends." Who was she praying to? Ms. Diller had what most people would think was a horrible life. She was the ugly daughter of elderly parents who had no conception of how to raise a child. Her first marriage was to a terrible man (much worse than Fang, her comedic on-stage name for her husband) who was a drunk, a lay-a-bout, and a parasite that fed off her stardom. Her second husband was no better. Although a hunk and a second-rate entertainer, he was extremely jealous of her success and, as she found out too late, he was gay. He would leave her in the hotel room and have sex with guys on the beach. Her next great love died suddenly while she was entertaining at sea. She had children she was unable to care for and had to ship off to troubled relatives, a daughter who was psychotic, another son and a daughter who died tragically in adulthood. She claims to have loved the son, although they had been incommunicado for years. It's just one bad happening after another. And she tells us about it unflinchingly. But she never really tells us how she feels. We can make assumptions, but based on our feelings, not hers. And through all of this chaos, she perseveres to become a superstar as a TV, stage and film comedienne, a best-selling author, a pianist who performed with over 100 symphony orchestras, and an artist of some renown. The fact that she climbed to such heights from such depths is amazing and a tribute to her fortitude.Read more ›
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