Book of the Week 9/3/12

Brash comedy and a surprising bitterness fuel this unsparing account of Phyllis Ada Driver, who 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. The story of Ms. Diller and her career is outlined in her well-acclaimed autobiography, Like a Lampshade In a Whorehouse: My Life In Comedy
(Tarcher, 2006).

Like a Lampshade is everything from inspiring to outright witty, a story told with style only Ms. Diller could accomplish. She shows that one can overcome the most difficult of odds by not only using determination to realize one’s dreams and goals, but also showed that youth and beauty are not the only tickets to success.

Making a career out of one’s personal disasters – along with the eccentric props of crazy wigs and a cigarette holder (though Ms. Diller was a nonsmoker throughout her life) – helped paved the way for today’s women comics.

Her down-to-earth yet amusing personality shines in Like a Lampshade, and the book is as much of a delightful read today as it was when it was first released.

For some good memories from the early days of comedy as well as a strong story of how a woman achieved what seemed impossible, Like a Lampshade is an eye-opening book to add to readers’ collections of biographies and memoirs.