At the American History Museum, there are quite a few famous donors to choose from. Just to keep things interesting, let's play a
game called guess the donor. We'll start with some clues, such as this joke. You know, you're old when your walker has an airbag. Yep. It's Phyllis Diller.
One of America's most successful comics decided before her death to write a letter to the Smithsonian Institute, making them an offer they couldn't refuse.
Curator Dwight Bowers received the letter from Diller. In the letter, in all her modesty, Phyllis said that ever since she heard of the inclusion of Archie Bunker's
chair in the Smithsonian display, she has wondered if the Institute might have interest in something of hers. Phyllis Diller then enclosed a bio of her career, stating
in case you're not familiar with my work. Yes, she was superbly modest. She then went on to say that she has kept the dress that she wore with Bob Hope during his
1966 Vietnam Expedition. She's basically saying, in case you're not familiar with my work, hello, Bob Hope and I were in Vietnam together performing for the troops.
Just in case you've been living under a rock.
So how did Phyllis Diller get her start? Back in 1955, Diller was a working mom with five kids.. back when life as a suburban housewife was thought to be mundane.
She had a desire to perform comedy based upon her suburban housewife experiences, and she took to the stage at 37 years old as the world's worst housewife
at a nightclub in San Francisco. The rest, as they say, is history.
Decades later, at 84 years old, she chose to donate much of her personal comedy memorabilia to the American History Museum. Perhaps so you can always think of her
role in making way for the presence of women in comedy, because she was the first woman to successfully have a career as a stand-up comic which is a very big deal.
Phyllis Diller was extremely generous to the Smithsonian, saying take what you like. The curator immediately chose the costume that she wore on Broadway in
the hit Hello Darling. The costumes were as flamboyant as the comic herself. Phyllis told him that this is one of my favorites. This is a costume she wore with
Bob Hope and is replete with wonderful feathers.
Even more interesting, however, was the joke file she kept in her room as if it were a shrine... and it is indeed a shrine to comedy. Over her career, Diller
amassed an enormous collection of jokes. So immense it took her own version of the Dewey Decimal System to keep it organized, with many promising headings such as
Avon lady, Dad, service, astrology, astronauts, Miss America and more.
A truly interesting fact about Phyllis Diller is that she holds a record for telling the most jokes. Yes, in the Guinness Book of World Records with 12 laughs a minute.
Jokes such as, I was so ugly. Oh, I don't know how to tell you. I wore a choke chain till I was 12. My own Ouija board told me to go to hell. A Peeping Tom threw
up on my windowsill. Or 2 Irish guys walk out of a bar. It could happen.
Phyllis Diller says she just wanted to make everybody feel good. She obviously took this to heart and now the Smithsonian has all her lines to prove it.