Monday, September 26, 2011

Have You Heard the One…? The Phyllis Diller Gag File

Where: National Museum of American History

When: through October 28, 2011

This exhibit is in the Smal Documents Gallery, one of my favorite spaces in the American History Museum.  It's easy to miss on the 2nd floor, which means it's usually not terribly crowded.

This exhibit is ostensibly about Phyllis Diller's gag file, and it is on display, a metal filing cabinet with one-liners typed on 3x5 cards and arranged by subject, but really it's about Diller herself, with information about her career, her clothing and her material.  There's a video of a few minutes of one of her shows playing in the exhibit - very funny.

Diller had 50,000 jokes in the file - how she managed to keep them all straight and remember which joke she was telling when, I have no idea.  Several of the cards are standing up so you can read the jokes - they give not only the joke itself, but the source and the date.  One of the ones on display is dated Juy 16, 1964 - the day I was born!

Interestingly enough, her famous cigarette in the long holder was made of wood, as she didn't smoke.  She was the opening act in the early 1960s for a young singer named Barbra Streisand - at one point, they shared a dressing room.  There's a picture of them together at the Bon Soir Nightclub in Greenwich Village.

Verdict: Go see this small, but amusing exhibit - a look at comedy when it was about telling jokes.

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