She was a staple of nightclubs and television from the 1950s - when female comics were rare indeed - until her retirement in 2002. Ms. Diller built her stand-up act around the persona of the corner-cutting housewife ("I bury a lot of my ironing in the backyard") with bizarre looks, a wardrobe to match (by "Omar of Omaha"), and a husband named "Fang."
Ms. Diller inspired a generation of female comics, including Ellen DeGeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, who remembered Ms. Diller on Twitter Monday.
"We lost a comedy legend today," DeGeneres wrote. "Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer."
"A true original has died," Goldberg wrote of Diller. "There was NO One like her, no 1 looked like her sounded like her. A FUNNY FUNNY."
She didn't get into comedy until she was nearly 40, after her first husband, Sherwood Diller, had prodded her for two years to give up a successful career as an advertising and radio writer. Through it all, she was also a busy mother.
"We had five kids at the time. I don't how he thought we'd handle that," she told the AP in 2006.
Her husband managed her career until the couple's 25-year marriage fell apart in the 1960s. Shortly after her divorce, she married entertainer Warde Donovan, but they separated within months. Through both marriages and other relationships, the foibles of "Fang" remained an integral part of her act.
She also appeared in movies, including Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number and Eight on the Lam, with Bob Hope.
But stand-up comedy was her first love. When she broke into the business in 1956, female comics were not widely accepted.
Although she could be serious during interviews, sooner or later a joke would pop out, often as not followed by that outrageous "AH-HHAAAAAAAAAAAA-HA-HA-HA!" laugh.
"It's my real laugh," she once said. "It's in the family. When I was a kid my father called me the laughing hyena."
Ms. Diller recovered from a 1999 heart attack with the help of a pacemaker; when she finally retired in 2002, she said, advancing age was making it too difficult for her to spend several weeks a year on the road.
After retiring from stand-up, Ms. Diller continued to take occasional small parts in movies and TV shows ( Family Guy) and pursued painting as a serious hobby. She published her autobiography, Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse, in 2005. The 2006 film Goodnight, We Love You documented her career.
Her other books included Phyllis Diller's Housekeeping Hints and Phyllis Diller's Marriage Manual.
Born Phyllis Driver in Lima, Ohio, she married Sherwood Diller right out of school (Bluffton College) and was a housewife for several years before getting outside work.
She was working as an advertising writer for a radio station when a comedy turn at San Francisco's Purple Onion nightclub launched her toward stardom.