|Tracey Ullman at 1990 Emmy Awards|
|Birth name||Trace Ullman|
|Born||30 December 1959
Slough, Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire), England, UK
|Nationality||British and Naturalized American|
|Years active||1980 – present|
|Genres||Comedy, Sketch-comedy, Social commentary, Satire, Character comedy|
|Spouse||Allan McKeown (since 1983, 2 children)|
|Notable works and roles||Various in The Tracey Ullman Show
Rosalie Boca in I Love You To Death
Eden Brent in Bullets Over Broadway
Various in Tracey Takes On
Frenchy in Small Time Crooks
Sylvia Stickles in A Dirty Shame
Various in Tracey Ullman's State of the Union
|Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program
1988 The Tracey Ullman Show
|Best Light Entertainment Performance
1984 Three of a Kind
Her early appearances were on British TV sketch comedy shows A Kick Up the Eighties (with Rik Mayall and Miriam Margolyes) and Three of a Kind (with Lenny Henry and David Copperfield). She also appeared as Candice Valentine in Girls On Top with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.
She emigrated from the UK to the US and created her own network television series, The Tracey Ullman Show, from 1987 until 1990, from which The Simpsons was spun off in 1989. She later produced programs for HBO, including Tracey Takes On..., for which she has won numerous awards. She has also appeared in several feature films. She currently stars in the sketch comedy show, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union, for Showtime.
Ullman was born in Slough, Buckinghamshire (now in Berkshire), the daughter of Dorin and Antony Ullman, a solicitor. Ullman later recalled, "My real name is Trace Ullman, but I added the 'y.' My mother said it was spelled the American way, but I don't think she can spell! I always wanted a middle name. My mum used to tell me it was Mary but I never believed her. I looked on my birth certificate and I didn't have one, just Trace Ullman." Ullman's mother was British and her father was a Polish soldier evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940, subsequently working as a furniture salesman and travel agent. When she was six, Ullman's father died of a heart attack while reading her a bedtime story. He was 50 years old. In an effort to cheer up her family, Tracey recounts putting on shows in her mother's bedroom, performing alongside her older sister, Patty. That first show was entitled The Patty Ullman Show. "I was a spin-off!" recalled Ullman. In her nightly performances she mimicked anyone and everyone, including neighbours, family members, friends, even celebrities. Soon after, Ullman's mother remarried.
At the age of 12, a headmaster saw Ullman's future potential, and recommended her to the Italia Conti Academy stage school. Although the school gave Ullman her first taste of the stage, she does not look back on it fondly.
At the age of 16, Ullman began finding jobs as a dancer, and soon landed a role in Gigi in Berlin. Upon returning to England, she joined the "Second Generation" dance troupe. She also began appearing in variety shows.
The exposure led to her casting in numerous West End musicals, including Grease, and The Rocky Horror Show. During this time Ullman learned of a competition at London's Royal Court Theatre for an improvised play about club acts. Entering the competition, Ullman created the character Beverly, a born-again Christian chanteuse. The performance was a big hit and she won the "Best Newcomer Award". The BBC became interested and offered her the chance to star in her own show. In 1983, Ullman took part in the workshops for Andrew Lloyd-Webber's upcoming musical, Starlight Express, playing the part of Pearl.
In 1983, Ullman succeeded as a singer on the punk label Stiff Records, although her style was more comic romantic than punk. She had six songs in the UK Top 100 in less than two years. Her 1983 debut album, You Broke My Heart In 17 Places, featured her first hit single, "Breakaway" (famous for her performance with a hairbrush as a microphone); the international hit cover version of label-mate Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know" went to #2 in the UK, and #8 in the U.S. MacColl sang backing vocals on Ullman's version. It would later become the theme song to Ullman's later television series, Tracey Takes On....
Follow-up singles, a cover of Doris Day's "Move Over Darling", which reached #8 in the UK, and the cover of Madness' "My Girl", which Ullman changed to "My Guy's Mad At Me", were released. (The "My Guy" video featured the British Labour Party politician Neil Kinnock, at the time the Leader of the Opposition)
Ullman's songs were over-the-top evocations of 1960s and 1970s pop music with a 1980s edge, "somewhere between Minnie Mouse and The Supremes" as Britain's Melody Maker put it, or "retro before retro was cool", as a retrospective reviewer wrote in 2002. Her career received another boost when the video for "They Don't Know" featured a cameo from Paul McCartney; at the time Ullman was filming a minor role in McCartney's film Give My Regards To Broad Street. Ullman released her second and last album, You Caught Me Out, in 1984.
In her HBO stand-up special, Tracey Ullman: Live and Exposed, Ullman recreated her music career, recounting how she entered the business, and why she left it. Performances of many of her hit singles were also performed in front of an audience for the performance. In October 2006, Ullman took part in the BBC Four documentary series, If It Ain't Stiff, a mini-series dedicated to the history of the label. A new "remastered" version of ...17 Places was released in 2007.
Along with her stint in the music world, Ullman began working in television. Between 1981 and 1984 she starred in sketch comedies A Kick Up the Eighties and Three of a Kind for the BBC. In 1985, she donned a blond wig and took the role of a promiscuous gold digger named "Candice Valentine" on the ITV sitcom Girls On Top. She left after one season, possibly due to being pregnant and giving birth to her first child in 1986.
At this point, US television beckoned, and renowned television producer James L. Brooks came calling. The two had discussed working together previously, but it wasn't until 1987 that they created The Tracey Ullman Show. Ullman played a variety of characters, completely unrecognizable with the help of makeup, prosthetics, and padding. The show was the first commercial hit for then unknown Fox channel. Paula Abdul served as the show's choreographer. The then-unknown Abdul even used her early music recordings for the series' strenuous dance numbers.
The Tracey Ullman Show earned four Emmys and spawned The Simpsons, which was featured in simple cartoon shorts (created by cartoonist Matt Groening at the behest of Ullman Show producer James L. Brooks).
In 1992 Ullman filed a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox in Los Angeles Superior Court over profits from the later half hour incarnation of The Simpsons for $2.5 million of the estimated $50,000,000 USD in profits reaped from merchandising. Several years after her show went off the air, she said jokingly in a late night television interview that she hoped to one day have a regular two-minute spot on The Simpsons. In 1991 Ullman had provided the voice of "Emily Winthrop", a British dog trainer on The Simpsons episode Bart's Dog Gets an F.
As Ullman had continued her professional relationship with former producer Brooks, only the studio and not Brooks was named in the suit. In fact, Brooks was allowed to videotape his testimony because at that time he was directing Ullman in the musical I'll Do Anything, which was released as a non-musical film. A settlement was reached whereby Ullman would receive a portion of the profits made from the show, although no amount was ever publicly disclosed.
Ullman returned to television in 1993, but this time in cable television. Two specials were created allowing Ullman to bring life to a host of new characters. The first, Tracey Ullman: A Class Act, took a humorous jab at the British class system, and co-starred Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin. For the second, Tracey Ullman Takes On New York, Ullman decided to take on a more American subject, New York City. Both specials drew praise and awards. HBO became interested in doing a Tracey Takes On series, and Ullman and her husband, Allan McKeown, set up production in Los Angeles in 1995.
Tracey Takes On... premiered 24 January 1996, on HBO. Each episode would focus on a topic for Ullman to "take on" and examine. The series would have two to three long sketches, and many small interview-styled bits, with her many characters commenting on that week's topic. Unlike the Fox show, Tracey Takes On... was shot on location, not filmed in front of a live audience. Making the switch to a cable-produced series enabled Ullman free rein to do and say as she pleased.
A kiss with Tracey Ullman Show alum Julie Kavner kicked off the series' first episode. Ullman portrayed characters, both male and female, made up of many ethnicities. This included an Asian donut shop owner, a (male) cab driver from the Middle East, and an African-American airport security guard. The series went on to win eight Emmys, numerous CableACE Awards, and a host other media awards, and was critically acclaimed. In 1997, it won the Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series Emmy Award category for the episode Vegas. In 1998 the series was published in book form, Tracey Takes On.... The series was also awarded GLAAD awards for its portray of gay and lesbian characters. Tracey Takes On completed its four-season run in 1999.
In 2001, Ullman took a break from her character-based series and created a chat show for Oxygen, Tracey Ullman's Visible Panty Lines. The show's main focus was fashion. Ullman had developed her own clothing Web site a few years prior. Interviewees included Arianna Huffington and Charlize Theron. The series lasted for two seasons, and ended in 2002.
A "Takes On" spin-off pilot was produced in 2003, Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales. Tales spotlighted just one of Ullman's most popular characters, Ruby Romaine. The pilot aired, but no series was ever commissioned.
Upon her naturalization in the United States, it was announced in April 2007 that she would be making the move from her 14-year working relationship with cable network, HBO, to the rival, Showtime. Ullman was to create a brand new series for the network, that would be inspired in part by her recently gained naturalisation. The series would focus on America, "the good, the bad, and the absolutely ridiculous", which also served as the series tag line.
Ullman credits senior programmer, Robert Greenblatt, as a big influence in her decision for the move, and the network's budding roster of hit shows. Greenblatt was a young development director during her Tracey Ullman Show days, and was enthusiastic to get her over to Showtime. Five episodes were ordered for the first season.
For the first time since the early years of her career at the BBC, Ullman was not only creating a new lineup of original characters, but rather, also impersonating famous ones. Tracey Ullman's State of the Union debuted on 30 March 2008.
It’s been fascinating to watch Ullman evolve from, say, Imogene Coca and Carol Burnett to something leaner and meaner, like a young Whoopi Goldberg. Or Lenny Bruce, with his surreal jive and need to shock. Or Lily Tomlin, signaling in coded transmissions through a worm hole to some parallel universe. Or Anna Deavere Smith, chameleon and exorcist, seeing around corners and speaking in tongues. Or, of course, Robin Williams, before all the bad movies and worse career choices, a brilliant mind unmade of equal parts politics and paranoia, music video and psychotherapy, a scrambled shaman egghead and Jack–in–a–Pandora’s box. Think of America as performance art.
Ullman has commented that the United States is, "now able to laugh at itself more," embracing more satiric humor, rather than deeming it "unpatriotic". Now that she's an official citizen, Ullman joked that she, "won't end up in Guantanamo Bay," for speaking her mind.
Ullman co-starred with Carol Burnett in the television adaptation of Once Upon a Mattress. Ullman played Princess Winnifred, a role originally made famous by Burnett on Broadway, who took on the role of the evil Queen.
Along with her television work, Ullman has featured in many films throughout her career. After the cancellation of The Tracey Ullman Show in 1990, she made her starring debut alongside Kevin Kline, River Phoenix and Joan Plowright in I Love You To Death. Ullman has also appeared in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Nancy Savoca's Household Saints, 'Bullets Over Broadway', Small Time Crooks, A Dirty Shame, and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. She had a small role in Paul McCartney's film Give My Regards to Broad Street.
Ullman portrayed Mother Nature in the 2007 romantic-comedy film, I Could Never Be Your Woman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Ullman acted as creative consultant on the 2006 Dreamworks feature, Flushed Away.
Ullman signed on to voice along with such actors as Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Lloyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Emma Watson in the computer-animated The Tale of Despereaux.
Ullman married producer Allan McKeown on 27 December 1983; they have two children, Mabel Ellen McKeown (born 1986) and John Albert Victor McKeown (born 1991).
Ullman announced in 2005 her intention of becoming an American citizen; she became one in December 2006. In 2006, Ullman topped the list for the "Wealthiest British Comedians", with an estimated wealth of £75 million.
To date, Ullman is a seven time Emmy Award winning, and American Comedy Award winning actor.
On 5 December 2006, Tracey was honored at the Museum of Television and Radio along with likes of Carol Burnett, Lesley Visser, Lesley Stahl, Jane Pauley, and Betty White, in the She Made It category.
Tracey Ullman in 1990
December 30, 1959|
Slough, Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire), United Kingdom
|Spouse||Allan McKeown (m. 1983)|
|Children||Mabel Ellen, Johnny|
Tracey Ullman (born December 30, 1959) is a British-born, now U.S. citizen comedian, actress, singer, dancer, screenwriter, and author, who is most famous for being the host of her variety television show.
She was the voice of Little Lulu for a while.