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Phyllis Diller's Laugher Curve

Monday, 20 Aug 2012 | 4:03 PM ET
Headshot portrait of American comedian Phyllis Diller posing wide-eyed and openmouthed in an outfit with a sequined court jester's collar, circa 1984.
Hulton Archive | Getty Images
Headshot portrait of American comedian Phyllis Diller posing wide-eyed and openmouthed in an outfit with a sequined court jester's collar, circa 1984.

I met Phyllis Diller a couple times over the years. The last time was in 2006, when she had me laughing to the point of tears. Sharp, funny, her timing remained spot on even at the age of 89 then. (Related: Comedian Phyllis Diller Dies at Age 95.)

I had pitched an idea to CNBC called "The Laugher Curve."

My hope was to find offbeat celebrities and "grill" them, 20 questions style, about money and business. Questions like, "What was the worst business advice you ever got? How much money is in your wallet?" All asked as the subject sat under harsh interrogation lights with four different cameras.

I knew it would take a certain kind of celebrity for this to work. Someone who was funny, quick on his or her feet, game for anything, and afraid of nothing.

Phyllis Diller on Money & Business
From the CNBC archives, legendary comedienne Phyllis Diller discusses money and business with CNBC's Jane Wells. Ms. Diller died today at age 95.

Diller was my first guinea pig. Her agent pitched her the concept, and she agreed to have me come over.

We went to her house, which is up the road from the Playboy mansion and down the road from O.J.'s old Rockingham estate. As the cameras set up in her living room, Diller met with me for a few minutes to get a better idea of the concept behind "The Laugher Curve." I explained that it was supposed to look like she was being grilled.

"What kind of questions are you asking?" she said. I gave her a few examples. Suddenly, her eyes twinkled. "I get it," she said. "That's funny." And then she laughed that laugh.

Phyllis Diller told me my idea was funny.

She took the concept to heart and gave my little cable segment her best shot. Bing, bang, boom, two minutes later and I had all I needed. Here is the result.

So thank you, Phyllis Diller, for all the laughs and for your kindness. I hope Fang is happy to see you at last.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells
@janewells

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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