Sherwood Anderson Diller: Phyllis Diller’s Ex-Husband

Sherwood Anderson Diller: Phyllis Diller's Ex-Husband

Sherwood Anderson Diller (1913-1993) was no artist himself, but had an impact of a comedic icon, Phyllis Diller. This article covers everything you need to know about him.


Sherwood Anderson Diller was born in 1913 in the United States to Waldo Diller and Maude Anderson Diller. He was later commonly referred to as Sherry.

Marriage to Phyllis Diller

In 1939 Sherwood married Phyllis Diller. Together they had 4 children. Stephanie, Peter, Sally, Perry, and Suzanne. Sherwood persuaded Phyllis to audition at the Purple Onion nightclub in San Francisco in 1955. That success launched her comedic career. Eventually, they divorced in 1965.

Management and Support

Sherwood was her manager when Phyllis Diller first became famous. His faith in her talent and support during those critical years were influential.

Personal Life

Little is known about Sherwood outside of his relationship with Phyllis, but he was an important role model in her early career. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1993 at the age of 73.

His Ex-Wife, Phyllis Diller

Sherwood Anderson Diller: Phyllis Diller's Ex-Husband

Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) was no ordinary comic. Her signature bouffant hairstyle, outlandish outfits and exaggerated laugh made her stand-up specialty. Laughter about aging, marriage and domesticity made her a comedic force for more than five decades.

Born Phyllis Ada Driver in 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller’s early life was not filled with laughter. Raised an only child in a strict home, she studied piano at the Sherwood music Conservatory in Chicago. Her formal schooling ended however when she married Sherwood Anderson Diller in 1939.

As they raised six children – one of whom died in infancy – Diller found humor in domestic chaos. Her first gigs were for friends and neighbors – she began making comedic timing and self-deprecating jokes. That changed in 1955 when she auditioned at the Purple Onion nightclub in San Francisco at the encouragement of her husband Sherwood. She performed zany acts in wild costumes and outrageous characters that launched her professional comedy career.

The 1960s saw Diller become a superstar. Her roles on shows like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Laugh-In” made her a national phenomenon. Her signature look – tall, teased hair, outlandish clothes and cigarette holder – became instantly familiar. She entertained audiences with self-deprecating jokes about her looks, her “fang” (between her front teeth) and her shoddy cooking. She never shrugged at sex-standard expectations of beauty and femininity – opening the door for a new generation of female comedians.

Diller was no one-trick pony. Musician by trade, she released comedic albums with her singing voice and comedic timing. She also did acting in films and television shows including Mad About You and The Muppet Show.

Diller’s personal life mirrors her career. She divorced Sherwood in 1965 and married pianist Warde Donovan in 1965, which also ended in divorce in 1975. Diller continued to perform into her 80s, winning a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 from the American Comedy Awards, despite her personal woes.

Whatever estimates of her net worth are, you can say Diller was comfortably wealthy during her career. But her legacy is in her trailblazing humor. She broke down barriers for female comedians so others could embrace self-deprecation and defy standards with laughter.

Phyllis Diller was the wild-haired queen of comedy who will be remembered for her sharp wit, iconic persona and unwavering commitment to making people laugh.