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Diane Ford, Stand-Up Comic on HBO Specials and ‘An Evening at the Improv,’ Dies at 68

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Diane Ford, a stand-up comic and Las Vegas headliner who drew laughs on HBO specials and A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, died April 30 of cancer in Sarasota, Florida, her nephew Wes Roberts announced. She was 68.

Ford also showed up 13 times on Fox’s Comic Strip Live and eight times on Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day telethon, which raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Ford was on the HBO specials Women of the Night II in 1988, Command Performance in 1990 and episodes of One Night Stand in ’90 and ’92. She made 13 appearances on Evening at the Improv and had three shows recorded for the BBC.

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When Tim Allen was asked by Bon Appetit magazine which three comedians he would invite to dinner, he replied that one “would have to be a woman who wouldn’t be afraid to tell us if we were being full of it, and it would be one of my contemporaries. I’d choose Diane Ford, who is a very funny comedienne.”

Ford wrote on an episode of Allen’s ABC sitcom Home Improvement in 1994.

Ford was born on Sept. 4, 1955, in Waseca, Minnesota. When she was 14, her parents died in a car accident, and she lived with relatives, in foster homes and at a Catholic Girls boarding school.

“A lot of comics have known some personal tragedy in their lives. A lot of comedy comes out of pain,” she once noted in an interview with The Detroit News. “If you can turn it around somehow and then laugh at it, it makes the pain easier to bear.”

Ford received 11 nominations at the American Comedy Awards for comedian of the year and had her own Vegas show, Diane Ford’s Cosmopolitan Comedy, at the Desert Inn. She also performed on Carnival cruises and at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in Sarasota when not on the road.

“I was so impressed with her strength as an independent woman,” Les McCurdy, co-owner of McCurdy’s, said. “You’re talking about the ’80s, and she was in a very male-dominated industry. She wasn’t intimidated by anyone; she only allowed you to get so close. Basically, a ballbuster.”

Survivors include her husband, John; stepsons Rhett and Travis; grandsons Charles, Aubrey, Addison, Selkie and Uhtred; and her siblings, Jerry, Lyle, Connie and Carol.

The self-deprecating Ford frequently made her and her husband the butt of jokes, and he enjoyed being part of the show, her nephew said.

“I knew when the punchline was coming up,” her husband said, “so I loved looking at the audience and watching their drinks come out of their noses at just the right moment!”

Donations in her memory can be made to the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota.

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