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Lily Tomlin

Tomlin in 2009
Born Mary Jean Tomlin
September 1, 1939 (1939-09-01) (age 70)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedian, producer, writer
Years active 1965–present
Domestic partner(s) Jane Wagner (1972-present)
Official website

Mary Jean "Lily" Tomlin (born September 1, 1939) is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer. She has won multiple awards from many quarters, including Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, and a Grammy Award and has also been nominated for an Academy Award.

Contents

Early life

Tomlin was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects,[citation needed] the daughter of Lillie Mae (née Ford), a housewife and nurse's aide, and Guy Tomlin, a factory worker. She was born the same day of the German invasion of Poland.[1] Tomlin's parents were Southern Baptists who moved to Detroit from Paducah, Kentucky during the Great Depression.[2][3][4] She is a 1957 graduate of Cass Technical High School. Tomlin attended Wayne State University, where her interest in the theater and performing arts began. After college, Tomlin began doing stand-up comedy in nightclubs in Detroit and later in New York City. Her first television appearance was on The Merv Griffin Show in 1965.

Career

In 1969, after a brief stint as a hostess on the ABC network's Music Scene, Tomlin joined NBC's sketch comedy show Laugh-In. Some characters from this show have been associated with her throughout her career, including the wisecracking, snorting telephone operator, Ernestine; the bratty five-year-old Edith Ann, seated in an over-sized rocking chair making rude noises while telling stories about her baby brother and pet dog Buster; and the Tasteful Lady, who lives a gracious, naїve life of entitlement in the upper class and shades of whom show up in Tomlin's film role in All of Me (see below). Additional characters include Susie the Sorority Girl, who appeared on Tomlin's album Modern Scream and in her 1975 appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Tomlin was also one of the first female comedians to break out in male drag with her characters Tommy Velour and Rick. Though drag had been around in Hollywood for some time by men, Tomlin broke new ground by not only crossing gender stereotypes, but racial ones as well. In 1982, she premiered Pervis Hawkins, a black rhythm-and-blues soul singer (patterned after Luther Vandross), with a mustache, beard and close-cropped afro hairstyle, dressed in a three-piece suit. Tomlin used very little if any skin-darkening cosmetics (it usually depended on stage lighting) as part of the character.

AT&T offered Tomlin US$500,000 to play her character Ernestine in a commercial, but she declined saying it would compromise her artistic integrity. However, in 1976 she did appear as Ernestine in a parody of a commercial on Saturday Night Live, in which she proclaimed, "We don't care, we don't have to...we're the phone company." The character later made a guest appearance at The Superhighway Summit at UCLA, January 11, 1994, interrupting a speech being given on the information superhighway by then-Vice President Al Gore. In 2003, she made two commercials as Ernestine for WebEx.

Tomlin is noted for her versatility. In Robert Altman's Nashville, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, she played Linnea Reese, a straitlaced, gospel-singing, mother of two deaf children who has an affair with a country singer (played by Keith Carradine). The Oscar that year went to Lee Grant for her role in Shampoo. She was also a secretary named Violet Newstead in Nine to Five, performed several comedic roles in the 1981 film The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and was a sickly heiress in the Steve Martin comedy All of Me.

She and Bette Midler played two pairs of identical twins who were switched at birth in the 1989 comedy Big Business. Tomlin also played chain-smoking waitress Doreen Piggott in Altman's 1993 ensemble film Short Cuts, and, in two films by director David O. Russell; she appeared as a peacenik Raku artist in Flirting with Disaster and later, as an existential detective in I ♥ Huckabees. In 2007, a video recording surfaced showing Tomlin and Russell in a heated exchange over the shooting of a scene in Huckabees.

Tomlin voiced Ms. Frizzle on the animated television series The Magic School Bus from 1994 to 1997. Also, in the 1990s, Tomlin appeared on the popular sitcom Murphy Brown as the title character's boss. In 2005 and 2006, she had a recurring role as Will Truman's boss Margot on Will & Grace. She appeared on the dramatic series The West Wing for four years (2002-2006) in the recurring role of presidential secretary Deborah Fiderer.

Tomlin was the first woman to appear solo in a Broadway show with her premiere of "Appearing Nitely" at the Biltmore theatre in April, 1977. The same month, she made the cover of "Time" magazine with the headline "America's New Queen of Comedy." Her solo show then toured the country and was made into a record album titled "On Stage." In 1985, Tomlin starred in another one-woman Broadway show The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by her long-time life partner, writer/producer Jane Wagner. The show won her a Tony Award, and was made into a feature film in 1991. Tomlin revived the show for a run on Broadway in 2000 which then toured the country through mid-2002. In 1989, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

Tomlin in 2008

She collaborated again with director Robert Altman, starring in Altman's last film A Prairie Home Companion, playing Rhonda Johnson, one half of a middle-aged Midwestern singing duo with Meryl Streep.

In the 2008-2009 fifth season of Desperate Housewives she has a recurring role as Roberta, the sister of Mrs. McCluskey (played by Kathryn Joosten, who coincidentally had played Tomlin's secretarial predecessor on The West Wing). During the 2008 Emmy Awards, Tomlin appeared as part of a tribute to the influential 1960s television series Laugh-In. Tomlin voiced Tammy in the 2005 The Simpsons episode, "The Last of the Red Hat Mamas." Tomlin provided a voice for the film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which was released in August 2009.[5]

Since its launch in 2008, Tomlin has been a contributor for wowOwow.com, a website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.

Tomlin and Kathryn Joosten have been in talks to star in a Desperate Housewives spin-off,[6] which was given the green light in May 2009.[7] Tomlin premiered her one-woman show "Not Playing with a Full Deck" at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in November, 2009. It was her first appearance in that city, though she did tape an Emmy-winning TV special, a spoof of Las Vegas called "Lily: Sold Out" which premiered on CBS in January 1991. Tomlin will guest star in the third season of "Damages" on FX, premiering on January 25, 2010.

Throughout her career, there is rarely a time when Tomlin has not been performing her evolving show somewhere. In the words of her character Bobbie Jeanine, the lounge organ player, "...I've played every town and burg in this country."

Personal life

Tomlin met her life partner Jane Wagner in 1971. After watching an after school special written by Wagner, Tomlin invited her to Los Angeles to collaborate on a comedy album. Although Tomlin officially came out as a lesbian woman to the press in 2001, her sexual orientation has not really been a secret; in interviews she would often refer to Jane Wagner as her partner. As Tomlin herself stated in 2008, in an interview for Just Out magazine: "Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane... In interviews I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don't always write about it."[8]

Tomlin has been involved in a number of feminist and gay friendly film productions, and on her 1975 album Modern Scream she poked-fun at straight actors who make a point of distancing themselves from their gay and lesbian characters — answering the pseudo-interview question, she replied: "How did it feel to play a heterosexual? I've seen these women all my life, I know how they walk, I know how they talk ..."[9]

Awards

Tomlin has received numerous awards,[10][11] including: four primetime Emmys; a special 1977 Tony[12] when she was appearing in her one woman Broadway show, Appearing Nitely; a second Tony as Best Actress, two Drama Desk Awards[12] and an Outer Critics Circle Award for her one woman performance in Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe; a CableACE Award for Executive Producing the film adaptation of The Search; a Grammy Award for her comedy album, This is a Recording (a collection of Ernestine the Telephone Operator routines[13]) as well as nominations for her subsequent albums Modern Scream, And That's the Truth, and On Stage; and two Peabody Awards — the first for the ABC television special, Edith Ann’s Christmas: Just Say Noël and the second for narrating and executive producing the HBO film, The Celluloid Closet.

Tomlin was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2003 she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

In March 2009, Tomlin received Fenway Health's Dr. Susan M. Love Award for her contributions to women's health.[14]

(Selected list)

Tony Awards

Best Actress in a Play

Special Tony Award

  • 1977 Lifetime Achievement[12]
Grammy Awards

Best Comedy Album

Emmy Awards[15]

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

  • 1981 Lily: Sold Out (ABC)
Lily Tomlin, executive producer and star; Rocco Urbisci, producer; Jane Wagner, executive producer

Outstanding Writing - Comedy-Variety or Music Special

Rosalyn Drexler, Ann Elder, Karyl Geld, Robert Illes, Lorne Michaels, Richard Pryor, Jim Rusk, Herb Sargent, James R. Stein, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, Rod Warren, George Yanok, Writers
Ann Elder, Christopher Guest, Lorne Michaels, Earl Pomerantz, Jim Rusk, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, Rod Warren, George Yanok, Writers
  • 1978 The Paul Simon Special (NBC)
Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Charles Grodin, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, Lily Tomlin, Alan Zweibel, Writers

Additionally, Lily (1973; above), in which she starred but did not produce, won for Outstanding Comedy-Variety, Variety Or Music Special, 1974 (Jerry McPhie, Herb Sargent, producers; Irene Pinn, executive producer)

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1972 Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers Telephone Voice (uncredited)
1975 Nashville Linnea Reese Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Female
1977 The Late Show Margo Sperling Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Silver Bear for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1978 Moment by Moment Trisha Rawlings
1980 9 to 5 Violet Newstead
1981 The Incredible Shrinking Woman Pat Kramer/Judith Beasley Fantafestival Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actress
1984 All of Me Edwina Cutwater Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1988 Big Business Rose Ratliff/Rose Shelton
1991 The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe Trudy, et. all American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)
Golden Needle Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female
1992 Shadows and Fog Prostitute
The Player Herself
1993 The Beverly Hillbillies Miss Jane Hathaway
Short Cuts Doreen Piggot American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)
Golden Globe Special Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Volpi Cup
1995 Blue in the Face Waffle eater Nominated — American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Leading Role)
1996 Getting Away with Murder Inga Mueller
Flirting with Disaster Mary Schlichting Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
1998 Krippendorf's Tribe Prof. Ruth Allen
1999 Tea with Mussolini Georgie Rockwell
2000 The Kid Janet
2002 Orange County Charlotte Cobb
2004 I Heart Huckabees Vivian Jaffe
2006 A Prairie Home Companion Rhonda Johnson Nominated — Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
The Ant Bully Mommo Voice
Last Guy on Earth
2007 The Walker Abigail
2009 The Pink Panther 2 Mrs. Yvette Berenger
Ponyo Toki Voice

Television

Year Film Role Notes
1966-1967 The Garry Moore Show Regular unknown episodes
1969 Letters to Laugh-In Panelist 1 episode
1969 Music Scene Hostess, also did skits such as the "Eraser Freak"
1969-1973 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Ernestine, the telephone operator; five-year-old Edith Ann; tasteful lady; other characters Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Performer in Music or Variety (1972)
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1973 Lily Herself Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
The Electric Company 1 episode
1974 Lily Herself Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
1975 The Lily Tomlin Special Herself Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
1976-1977 Saturday Night Live Host/Ernestine/Various 2 episodes
1977 The Paul Simon Special Herself Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
1979 Sesame Street Edith Ann 1 episode
1981 Lily: Sold Out Herself Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program
1984 Pryor's Place 1 episode
1993 And the Band Played On Dr. Selma Dritz Nominated — CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
1994 Frasier Rita
1994-97 The Magic School Bus Ms. Frizzle Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program (1995)
Nominated — Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer In An Animated Program (1996, 1997, 1998)
1996 Homicide: Life on the Streets Rose Halligan Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series
1996-98 Murphy Brown Kay Carter-Shepley
1998 The X-Files Lydia
2000 Bette Herself
2002-06 The West Wing Deborah Fiderer Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2003, 2005)
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (2003)
2005 The Simpsons Tammy Episode:The Last of the Red Hat Mamas
2005-06 Will & Grace Margot 2 episodes
2008 12 Miles of Bad Road Amelia Shakespeare 6 episodes
2008-09 Desperate Housewives Roberta Simmons
2010 Damages Marilyn Tobin Main Cast Member

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Nobody is here without a reason. ... I like a huge range of comedy ... but I always wanted my comedy to be more embracing of the species rather than debasing of it.

Lily Tomlin (born 1 September 1939), American actress and comedian; companion of Jane Wagner.

Contents

Sourced

  • I've seen these women all my life, I know how they walk, I know how they talk...
    • Response of a gay character asked how she felt playing a heterosexual, on her album Modern Scream (1975)
  • Truth is, I've always been selling out. The difference is that in the past, I looked like I had integrity because there were no buyers.
    • Modern Scream (1975)
  • There's so much plastic in this culture that vinyl leopard skin is becoming an endangered synthetic.
I have always felt that humor was a wonderful vehicle to let us become connected with each other and ourselves…
  • What if it's boring... or if it's not boring, it might be too revealing, or worse, it might be too revealing and still be boring.
    • Referring to her teenage diary, in an interview in Movie magazine (July 1983)
  • I have always felt that humor was a wonderful vehicle to let us become connected with each other and ourselves… I try to portray the similarities and polarities in men and women, so that we can acknowledge and embrace our collective consciousness.
    • As quoted in Variety magazine (2003)
I feel some part of me can wake up and be very existential and the next day wake up and be sort of in love with the universe.

The Advocate interview (2005)

Interview with Alonso Duralde, "Thoroughly modern Lily" (15 March 2005)
  • I feel some part of me can wake up and be very existential and the next day wake up and be sort of in love with the universe.
  • When you talk about yourself for 35 years, first of all, it gets repetitious. And then it seems a little bit excessive, at the least.
  • People think there's some real subversive thing playing against whoever it is; a lot of it is just people who want to go along and get along. And they also want to make money. And the bottom line is, they're going to put out as much stuff as they can — stupid, banal stuff that makes money.
  • The larger picture is really to swing people's awareness of what really is moral. ... There are great clergy-people who absolutely do not agree with this. It's not whether God is on our side or whether we're doing God's will, it's being so narcissistic as to think that God is telling you what to do.
  • We went to a Southern Baptist church. When I was a small child, until I was about 8 or 9 years old, I worried if I didn't go forward and get saved every Sunday — which I couldn't do, it was absolutely too humiliating to see these adults flailing and beating their breasts and sobbing, and I thought, Oh, my God, this is so ridiculous, so embarrassing — I could never bring myself to go forward. And I'd think, Oh, my God, if I don't go next Sunday, if the end of the world comes, I'll go to hell. And that's is a pretty hard thing for a 7- or 8-year-old to carry all the time
  • The point I want to make is, the idea that people will say — out of the 170,000 people or however many were killed in the tsunami — they'll say, "God saved me." As if God particularly saved this person. There's a tremendous amount of narcissism in that belief, that God is speaking directly to you. I mean, it's unbelievable. ... All these disparate opinions and points of view that people say they're getting as direct divine guidance — I've been concerned for decades about presidents who claim to be born again. And knowing that everyone I knew in the fundamentalist church or in the evangelical Christian church — they wanted the rapture to come. ... We don't have to save the environment, because we're not going to be around.
Jane took me to another level because she's truly a wonderful writer. I'd put things together in the past and struggled with them. And then I met Jane...

Metro Weekly interview (2006)

Interview with Randy Shulman in Metro Weekly (27 April 2006)
  • 9 to 5 made people aware of equal pay for equal work. It hasn't really happened, but it has come closer. We're aware of sexual harassment, and of course, there are very few companies that have daycare centers, which seems to me would be the most humane, positive thing to do for a worker. The worker would be more loyal, they'd be more productive. It's so crazy not to do the human thing. It seems to me to be much more profitable to do the human thing. It just makes a better society.
  • Jane took me to another level because she's truly a wonderful writer. I'd put things together in the past and struggled with them. And then I met Jane. ... I was doing my Edith Ann album in '71 — the album came out in '72. She'd done a thing on television called J.T. — it was about a kid in Harlem — and she won a Peabody for it. I later learned it was the first thing she'd ever written.
    It was written as an After School Special, but they played it in prime time — and they played it every year after that for about 25 years, or something. Anyway, I saw it and it was wonderful. It was poetic and sensitive and satiric and tender and funny and so many things compressed into this one hour. And I thought, "Oh, God, this is exactly what I want in a monologue." So I wrote Jane and asked her to help me do the Edith Ann album. I didn't hear from her for a while. Then, suddenly, about a week before I was supposed to go in and record, she sent me a lot of material. I persuaded her to come to California and help me produce it. Frankly, I was pretty taken with her as soon as I saw her. We just sort of clicked. We became a couple right away.
  • I respect her talent and her brain and who she is as a person — and that kind of admiration and respect is a big factor in binding someone in a relationship. I know what a good heart she has, and how empathetic she is with all kinds of people and issues — she's so brilliant on top of it that she can voice these things. And she's as funny as she can possibly be. She makes me laugh.
  • Some journalists are just motivated by their own sense of what they want to say or what they feel comfortable saying or writing about. In '77, I was on the cover of Time. The same week I had a big story in Newsweek. In one of the magazines it says I live alone, and the other magazine said I live with Jane Wagner. Unless you were so really adamantly out, and had made some declaration at some press conference, people back then didn't write about your relationship.
  • Listen, I have no judgment about anything. Some people will bring certain celebrities up to me who are presumably — or known to be — gay and ask "Why don't they come out?" But we don't know why they don't, and it's none of our business, really. In '75 I was making the Modern Scream album, and Jane and I were in the studio. My publicist called me and said "Time will give you the cover if you'll come out." I was more offended than anything that they thought we'd make a deal. But that was '75 — it would have been a hard thing to do at that time.
  • It's a more ridiculing, divisive humor today, especially with the advent of political incorrectness, which is a license to be as ridiculing and awful about certain groups... There should be room for everybody, absolutely, and then the culture is going to decide the prevailing weight. We can't decide it individually. Nobody is here without a reason. ... I always had a different sensibility. I like a huge range of comedy — from broad and farcical, the most sensitive, the most understated — but I always wanted my comedy to be more embracing of the species rather than debasing of it.
The best mind-altering drug is truth.

Contributions of Jane Wagner

Material in Tomlin's acts credited to Jane Wagner at Tomlin's official site.
  • Don't be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.
  • For fast acting relief, try slowing down.
  • If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?
  • If the formula for water is H2O, is the formula for an ice cube H2O squared?
  • If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?
  • If you read a lot of books, you're considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well-viewed.
  • Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.
  • The best mind-altering drug is truth.
  • The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
  • Why is it when we talk to God we're said to be praying — but when God talks to us, we're said to be schizophrenic?
  • Interviewer: You once said you had a drug problem...
    Lily: Yeah, I still do. It's so hard to find good grass these days.
Remember we're all in this alone.

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985)

As performed by Tomlin; written by Jane Wagner
  • Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.
    • As "Trudy"
  • Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it....
    • As "Trudy"
  • Reality is a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs.
    • As "Trudy"
    • Unsourced variant: Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.
  • When you're dancing the mystical dance of the molecules, you're not the one who's leading.
    • As "Trudy"
  • It's my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
    • As "Trudy"
    • Unsourced variants: I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
      Man invented language to satisfy his deep inner need to complain.
  • All my life, I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.
    • As "Chrissy"
  • If I had known what it would be like to have it all... I might have been willing to settle for less.
    • As "Lyn"
  • Sometimes I feel like a figment of my own imagination.
    • As "Chrissy"
  • No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.
    • As Lily
    • Unsourced variant: No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.
  • I bet the worst part about dying is the part where your whole life passes before you.
  • Your problem is your role models were models.
  • I swear people don't want sex so much as they want somebody who'll listen to 'em ... the first thing you learn after fellatio is how to listen.
  • Remember we're all in this alone.
  • If evolution was worth its salt, it should've evolved something better than 'survival of the fittest.' I think a better idea would be 'survival of the wittiest.' At least, that way, creatures that didn't survive could've died laughing.
    • As "Trudy"

On Saturday Night Live (11/25/75)

  • Wouldn't it be great if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be? The world would be full of nurses, firemen, and ballerinas.
  • Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?

External links

Wikipedia
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