If you’re stupid enough, general knowledge seems like expertise. If you’re stupider still, puppets seem like a trick. If you’re stupider still, you are the customer base for 1987’s How to Have a Moneymaking GARAGE SALE Starring Phyllis Diller. It defies no expectations at all. It’s 24 minutes of basic instructions for putting price tags on garbage along with several tips you couldn’t possibly not already know Starring Phyllis Diller.
The tape already knows you need to have a garage sale by the nature of you owning the least necessary instructional VHS tape. How to Have a Moneymaking GARAGE SALE’s first and main purpose is to help you rid yourself of it. You need to turn Trash Into Cash™, Old Into Gold™, and your Precious Time into Pointless Rhymes™!
Besides owning a garage, unlimited leisure time, and a retail store’s worth of unwanted appliances, the tape also assumes you already have a strong working knowledge of Phyllis Diller. Maybe this is maybe something you could take for granted in 1987, but in 2021 most of her jokes sound like code to activate deep cover operatives. For instance, it opens with her screaming, “I haven’t had this many people in my garage since the vice squad raided Fang’s Going Out of Marriage party! Sliiide whistle! Honnnk!” This was a reference to her fictional husband, Fang, who was at all times cheating on her, divorced from her, a pain in her ass, dead, or a loyal friend and provider. From Phyllis’ age and the era you might assume “Fang” had dark, racist origins, but the name was distilled down from an old ad-libbed line about a traffic accident where she called her husband “Old Fang Face.”
This was apparently such common knowledge at the time the producers of How to Have a Moneymaking GARAGE SALE figured you knew it, yet needed a VHS tape explaining how to write “25 cents” on a box of coffee mugs.
To be clear: for anyone who needed a celebrity host for a yard sale video, Phyllis Diller was a perfectly appropriate choice. She was the right amount of famous where everyone knew her but no one would say, “How the fuck did they get Phyllis Diller for this?” And as far as instructional videos go, no one has gotten more for their money than these producers. Phyllis Diller brings an energy to this like someone honored to be hosting the Daytime Emmy Awards. And while she does have strong acting and broadcast skills, you can’t fake this kind of enthusiasm. This is a woman with a true passion for the craft of garage saling. She never stops screaming about it. “Who knows more about turning trash into cash than me? I’ve been doing it for YEARS! Wha ha ha!” She had no notes when the script called for her to barge into the room with a trash bag exclaiming…
The video never misses an opportunity to add a joke, and I emphatically don’t mean that as a compliment. For example, when Phyllis suggests you gather unwanted items from around your home to use in your garage sale, she opens a closet full of tumbling props and says, “That was about a six on the Richter scale!” Then she holds up a pair of antlers and a clown nose and says, “Poor Rudolph never saw that land mine!” I’m not saying the video would be better if it was 40 seconds of her growling, “Here is the entire one step to selling old pajamas, you stupid shits.” I’m only saying this is very bad. I mean, for one thing, Rudolph is basically always in the air except at the north pole or on the roofs of non-naughty children. Are you telling me someone climbed onto the roof of a nice family, on Christmas, and land mined their home? An unspeakable act that killed a rare, innocent animal and presumably the magical spirit of Christmas? And this is funny to you, Phyllis!? Before we get to the yard sale, ha ha, let’s fucking molest the remains of Santa’s loyal companion!?
According to Phyllis Diller’s handwritten list, one of the things you need to do before a garage sale is “INSURANCE AND LAWS.” So she calls her insurance agent who recognizes her voice and hangs up on her. She groans, “Wrong number,” followed by a string of words delivered with the cadence of jokes but with all the meaning of a confused reindeer’s final screams. Again, it would be weirder if How to Have a Moneymaking GARAGE SALE Starring Phyllis Diller was good, but it seems a strange indulgence to write the entire script by carving the language center out of a a human brain and transcribing the shrieks of the ravens feeding on it.
Another thing you need to do before your garage sale is call your neighbors to see if they have anything to sell. Then check the paper to see if there are any big sporting or television events that might distract potential customers from your big event. You don’t want to compete for a market share against ABC’s All-Star Salute to Lawns Full of Trash. Also on Phyllis’ list, and this may really tickle you is “TOM SELLECK’S PHONE NUMBER sliiiiiiide whistle.” It’s the second of three “I’m trying to fuck Tom Selleck” jokes in the video, and Phyllis expertly punctuates this one by circling the words “TOM SELLECK’S PHONE NUMBER” several times and nothing else. I feel like I’m not explaining all the subtleties, but she wants actor Tom Selleck to have sex with her and his name is Tom Selleck.
At this point, the tips come at the viewer fast. You get advice on market values, how to make signs, and why you should wash used clothes. It starts to become pretty clear from Phyllis’ excitement and the numbers getting thrown around that this isn’t about the money. Even in the filmmakers’ wildest imagination, this well-organized and celebrity-promoted garage sale looks like it’s hoping to make about forty bucks. Phyllis Diller would get double the profits if she threw her trash into the ocean and asked her plastic surgeon to use generic dermal fillers. Speaking of, there are eight (8) facelift jokes in this video sliiide whistle, honk. That’s an average of one every three minutes, and please understand they are not a part of a long running gag. They are each distinct and less fun than the last. The side effect of learning how to hold a garage sale is that you will no longer find joy in the skin thinly stretched across Phyllis Diller’s skull.
“WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS PUP TENT! honk arrooooga,” is how Phyllis uses her dynamic prop comedy to tell you maternity clothes are a hot ticket item at garage sales. And while that’s technically “knowledge,” if I was a new mother trying to get rid of stuff, it might already occur to me to include the clothes I would never wear again. This is like informing someone who already ordered lunch that soup is wet food, like the dripping holes near Tom Selleck.
Have we talked shoes yet? You should be sure to wear functional garage sale shoes. Or as Phyllis puts it…
There is so much time spent on advice you couldn’t conceivably not know they spend no time explaining complicated things. For instance, Phyllis walks past a homemade changing room saying, “You’ll need a ladder, a shower curtain, and a closet dowel from the lumber yard!” And instead of explaining how to MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson, yum! sliiiide whistle) together a dressing room with debris and no fasteners, she peeks into it, shatters the mirror, and screams, “YOU’D THINK AFTER FIFTEEN FACE LIFTS THAT WOULD STOP. AH HA! horrrrn sound.” Hilarious, sure, but the viewer is no closer to knowing how to build a retail space in their garage. It’s fucked up they assume I’m an accomplished junkyard architect maternity dress collector but I don’t understand how stickers work. They’re more confused than Fang trying to order sushi at the Aladdin while the surgical staples behind his wife’s ears detached!
There’s an entire section of the tape about the outrageous characters you’ll run into at a garage sale. It is a perfect setup to comedy hijinx, but instead it’s the least fun, instructional part of this instructional video. It prepares you for the inevitability of hardnose bargaining and petty thievery that comes with turning your home into a flea market. It still has some jokes about how her face is more basketball than flesh and how her genitals are loveless deserts long since abandoned by Fang and never to be explored by Tom Selleck. It’s frankly so far past the point of self-deprecation I looked up the writer to see how he knew Phyllis Diller well enough to dunk on her unfuckable sadness over and over like this.
It was written by someone who only had one credit on an episode of Hollywood Squares, a show Phyllis Diller was on frequently. So this may explain how they got a call with Phyllis Diller’s agent, but not how they had the confidence to hand her this many jokes about her ancient face and vagina flesh. When you’re putting together a garage sale VHS, it takes huge balls to hand your celebrity host a script that says, “I’m a fucking gross piece of shit and here’s how you price used paperbacks.” I should know. I was stabbed 40 times by Rob Van Winkle after he saw the script for Make Your Own Gourmet Sorbet Starring That Asshole Vanilla Ice SLIIIIIDE WHISTLE, HONK HOOOONKK.
One other type of garage sale customer to watch out for is The Nitpicker. He’s the type of person who will yell at you for not keeping your appliances in perfect condition. He w– wait. I think I recognize The Nitpicker. Used (Works!) COOLVIEW TV/VCR Combo, enhance:
No. N-no, it can’t be.
Jesus Christ, it is! IT IS! This is fucking Master Eastwest, from The Magic of Martial Arts! He’s a mysterious being with all the powers of the Orient who teaches children Karate in his cave, and here he is causing a scene over a garage sale’s return policy on a six inch television. He is angry, entitled, and seems to be blaming Phyllis Diller for a series of bad turns his life took. His every acting choice seems to have been made for a revenge movie about a garage sale customer pushed too far. And maybe it’s because a child-abducting Karate ghost is losing its temper on the set, but there is a serious tone change here at the end of How to Have a Moneymaking GARAGE SALE Starring Phyllis Diller. Off camera voices start demanding to use her phone and bathroom and she worriedly explains how dangerous a garage full of deal-hunting strangers can be.
Then, in what I think is a coincidence and not a potential murderer gag, a seven foot man emerges from the bargain wasteland with garden shears leveled at Phyllis Diller’s neck. “Three dollars,” is all he says as his hands tremble ready on the handles. The point is, the two unhinged madmen brandishing deadly weapons at the star (garden shears and cave Karate) really drive home the accidental theme of the video: there is no idea worse than having a moneymaking garage sale.