overall: 48 in x 40 in x 17 1/4 in; 121.92 cm x 101.6 cm x 43.815 cm
United States: New York, New York
ca 1962 - 1994
This beige metal cabinet is Phyllis Diller’s gag file, a categorized archive of the jokes Diller used in her stand-up comedy routines throughout her half-century long career. A small three drawer expansion of the gag file is also in NMAH’s collection (Catalog Number 2003.0289.01.02). The 48 drawers of the gag file, along with the 3 drawer expansion, contain a total of 52,569 3-by-5 inch index cards, each holding a typewritten joke or gag. These index cards are organized alphabetically by subject ranging from accessories to world affairs and covering almost everything in between.
Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) began her comedy career in the 1950s at the age of 37 and broke barriers in the comedy world to become the first solo female comic to be a household name. She developed a stage persona of an incompetent housewife and dressed in outlandish outfits with wild hair. Her material focused on self-deprecating jokes that tackled the idealized image of American mothers and homemakers. She also created many mythical personas for her stage act including her “husband” Fang, her “neighbor” Mrs. Clean, and her “mother-in-law” Moby Dick.