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Limaland Comedy festival to bring laughs in honor of Diller PDF Print E-mail
Friday, July 11, 2014 8:00 PM


DHI Media Staff Writer

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LIMA — Before well-known female comedians like Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, there was Phyllis Diller. Diller, born and raised in Lima, opened the door for female comedians in the 1960s and Limaland Comedy will host Lima’s Funniest Lady Comedy Festival starting Wednesday to celebrate this comedy icon.

“She was the first real female comedian and the first female comedian that became a household name,” Limaland Comedy owner Gina Chiappazzi said. “She was groundbreaking for women in comedy and for women in general because she broke the glass ceiling. It’s awesome that someone from Lima did that.”

Born July 17, 1917, Phyllis Ada Driver attended Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago before transferring to Bluffton University. In 1939, she married Sherwood Diller and they eventually moved to California where Diller became a secretary at a San Francisco television station. The local television hosts heard her stand-up act and invited her on their show in 1955. From there, her popularity spread.

In the 1960s, Diller performed, toured and co-starred with Bob Hope. She was in his comedy films “Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!,” “Eight on the Lam” and “The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell.” She also performed with Hope in his USO troupe in Vietnam in 1966.

She won a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy in 1992 at the American Comedy Awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Female TV Star in 1966 and for the Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Service Show Host in 1997.

The Wisegals of Comedy, an all-female comedy showcase, stars comedienne Carla Goldbusch as Phyllis Diller at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Lima Holiday Inn. The show is free. (Submitted photo)More recently she had roles in “7th Heaven” and “Boston Legal,” was the voice of Queen in “A Bug’s Life” and made an appearance in 2007 on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Diller died of heart failure on Aug. 20, 2012, at age 95.

“She doesn’t have much of a presence in Lima and we want to change that,” Chiappazzi said.

Limaland Comedy is the area’s only comedy organization. The group focuses on preserving the legacy of Diller and developing a local comedy scene with a combination of both national headlining comedians and rising local comics as well.

Last year, Limaland Comedy had an all female comedy competition to help raise funds for a Phyllis Diller exhibit at the Lima/Allen County Museum. This year, the group decided to host three events rather than a competition. A portion of the ticket sales and money raised through raffles held at the events will go to a fund for the exhibit.

“We’re doing this for the community and the people of Lima,” local comedian Joe Deez said. “Every show is guaranteed to make you laugh and has been created to raise awareness and funds for a Phyllis Diller exhibit right here in her hometown.”

In July 2013, Limaland Comedy requested the mayor and city council of Lima make July 17 be forever known as Phyllis Diller Day. That request was granted and this year will celebrate that accomplishment of getting Diller that recognition in her hometown.

“This year, we are focusing on something for everybody,” Chiappazzi said. “We have professional stand-up comedy at one of the classiest restaurants in town. We even have an Ohio comedian performing a spot-on Phyllis Diller on her birthday.”

Lima’s Funniest Lady Comedy Festival will kick off Wednesday with the national touring comedian Sal DeMilio. DeMilio is a regular on the “Bob and Tom Show.” He will bring his Italian-American style to Milano Café, 2383 Elida Road in Lima, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and those interested should reserve seats at Milano Café.

The festival will continue on Thursday to celebrate Phyllis Diller Day and her birthday. Kem’s Restaurant and Lounge located in the Holiday Inn at 803 South Leonard Avenue in Lima will host the Wisegals of Comedy, an all-female comedy showcase starring comedienne Carla Goldbusch as Miss Diller herself. The show is free and starts at 8 p.m.

Also on Thursday, a women’s expo will be from 6-8 p.m. with products for women, self defense classes and more.

A show on Friday was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts but the festival will continue on Saturday, July 19, with an open mic night at Gilbert’s Music, 1206 West Robb Avenue in Lima, starting at 5 p.m. Anyone wanting to try out their stand-up comedy skills can sign up and have a chance to be included in an upcoming local comedy album.

Visit for more details on each event and how to sign up for the open mic night.


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