"Aim high, and you won't shoot your foot off." Phyllis Diller
March 5, 2017 11:24 AM   Subscribe

"Ever since I heard of the inclusion of Archie Bunker's chair in a Smithsonian display I have wondered if the Institute might have interest in something of mine.... I have kept the dress I wore with Bob Hope in his 1966 Viet Nam Expedition. (YT, Bob Hope Special January 18th, 1967) Even if I end up in the zoo or with the mammals, I would be honored. Congratulations on your gigantic projects. Godspeed. Phyllis Diller" That's how the National Museum of American History ended up with Diller’s 48-drawer metal filing cabinet, each drawer filled with neatly organized cards that contain 50,000 jokes—give or take a knee slapper or two. And now you can help transcribe Phyllis Diller's gag file.
posted by filthy light thief (19 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Bonus Phyllis: Stories from the Vaults: Laughter in the Vaults -- a Smithsonian Channel short video (6:13, optional closed captions)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:25 AM on March 5, 2017

Yessss. Diller is an under-appreciated pioneer, a legend who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best. Transcribing her gags would be a pleasure and an honor, thank you posting this.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:48 AM on March 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

Watching the young Phyllis Diller shyly telling jokes on Groucho's You Bet your Life made me fall a little bit in love with her.
posted by vacapinta at 11:55 AM on March 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

When I was a kid and pre-adolescent, few people could make me laugh as hard as Diller could. Good lord.

For some reason, though, I always sort of felt sorry for her on a personal level. Her self-deprecating humor struck a note in my own depressed self and I guess I just sort-of felt a lot of her humor was coming from a similar source. Whether it was, of course, I had no idea. It just felt...familiar...to me.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Her self-deprecating humor

It’s Okay For Girls To Be Unsexy (And Other Things Phyllis Diller Taught Us)

Phyllis Diller, who died peacefully in her sleep last night at 95, is so important to every woman who, 50 years ago, might have been referred to as a “broad.” For the girls who are often spurned because they are “crazy” — and not in the good way that Joseph Gordon-Levitt loves — she represented the idea that they could get laughs, too, and not just be the butt of them. She showed that being “unattractive” could be harnessed and used in such a charming, witty, good-natured way that no one even saw her flaws anymore, they only saw a funny woman who was completely confident in herself. I cannot think of a woman I look at and find more beautiful — crazy wigs, thick makeup, plastic surgery and all — because she was honest about herself and did exactly what she wanted, and didn’t give a damn what a man would have preferred her to be.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:49 PM on March 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Transcribing these cards has been my self-soothing activity this week. Miss that old broad.
posted by palomar at 1:46 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is very cool and fun to do, but I wonder why they're not automating it with text recognition software. The fact that it's all typed and everything has been already scanned should make it well-suited for automation. Maybe it's to get more people involved in their transcription projects in general -- in which case, it's certainly a good hook.
posted by treepour at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I haven't started, but the articles say some of them are hand written, and they're looking for a specific format in transcribing.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I couldn't find any that weren't finished. If someone has a direct link to unfinished cards or to the proofing of transcribed cards I'd appreciate it.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

But what would Fang say?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 3:18 PM on March 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Wow 50,000 jokes? I can only remember one:

Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick!

Goodnight, folks!
posted by littlesq at 4:53 PM on March 5, 2017

50,000 jokes: that's more than Milton Berle's. But then he was also known in Hollywood gossip circles for something else extraordinarily big, and it's the only time I recall old comedians speak in praise of some other comic's anything...
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's interesting that some of these were actually purchased from other comedians (these days, I guess, comedians just steal from one another).

I have a friend who's a former standup comedian. She jumped on this as soon as I told her about it.
posted by lhauser at 8:18 PM on March 5, 2017

Comedians still buy jokes, or at least the one professional comedian I know does from time to time.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:14 AM on March 6, 2017

Warning: Once you start working on this, it's really hard to tear yourself away.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:47 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Faint of Butt, can you post a link to available projects, please? I still can't seem to find anything, thanks.

Also, not really sure what Milton Berle's dick has to do with Phyllis Diller's brilliant career.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:08 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have to click a section that hasn't been fully transcribed (the progress bar is showing gray), look down for "Show pages needing" and then click "Transcription".

This link ought to work, at least for the moment.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:26 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is such a joy to be a part of; seeing handwritten notes, and on a couple of occasions, the evolution of the jokes over multiple cards is fascinating. They're splitting each drawer into 2-4 sections, and releasing a few at a time. If you don't see anything available now, check back a little bit later; they seem to be averaging 4 drawers a day.
posted by jacy at 8:02 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've long said that as much as I'd love to age into a Judy Dench or a Helen Mirren, I'm definitely on the Phyllis Diller track. So this tickles me, as a fellow kooky broad. However, as a librarian I should thank you for posting, because now I've got a new transcription hobby to look forward to. This is amazing. Thanks.
posted by librarianamy at 3:20 AM on March 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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