Death of writer and comedian Selma Diamond

September 5, 1985

Selma Diamond once said that working as the only woman in a quintet of writers was “like being Red China—I’m there, they just don’t recognize me.”

Diamond was hard to miss, in a writer’s room, on a talk show, or in situation comedy.  With a voice she described as “sounding like Brillo” and a rapier-like wit, Diamond drove her voice into the public arena, writing for others and creating stand-up routines for herself.  Born in Toronto in 1920, she was raised in Brooklyn, graduating from New York University.  Beginning her writing career writing radio routines for voices as disparate as Rudy Vallee and Jimmy Durante, she also contributed stories to New Yorker magazine.  Writing for the radio shows featuring Groucho Marx and Ozzie and Harriet, she reached a writing pinnacle by becoming part of the team behind Sid Caesar’s extraordinarily popular television shows. 

She often appeared on the Tonight show with Jack Paar, and later with Johnny Carson. As a result of her appearances, she told an interviewer in 1965, “When I walk along a street, a lot of viewers greet me by my first name. To them, I seem to have become one of those people identified by just one name. You know, like Picasso, Garbo, Drano.”

Carl Reiner, a performer and writer for Sid Caesar’s shows, said that the character of Sally Rogers on The Dick van Dyke Show (played by Rose Marie) was based on Diamond.  After releasing a comedy album titled Selma Diamond Talks and Talks and Talks, Diamond began appearing in films (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, My Favorite Year, and All of Me) and on network television (Too Close for Comfort).  Her most popular success was as the feisty, chainsaw-voiced bailiff Selma Hacker on Night Court

Diamond passed away in Los Angeles on May 13, 1985.

Source: “Selma Diamond, 64, is Dead; Comedy Writer and Actress”, New York Times, May 14, 1985.

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Comedian and writer Selma Diamond as bailiff Selma Hacker in Night Court.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Death of writer and comedian Selma Diamond." (Viewed on April 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/05/1985/death-of-writer-and-comedian-selma-diamond>.

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