Tomlin's comedy relies largely on portraying characters, many of whom have become pop-culture fixtures.
The show, An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin, features Tomlin and her well-loved characters, including Edith Ann, the precocious 5-year-old philosopher, and Ernestine, the condescending telephone operator. Video from Tomlin’s movie and TV appearances will augment her live performance. There’s plenty of material from which to choose. Although Laugh-In was her big break, the Detroit native’s 55-year career encompasses hit Hollywood films such as 9 to 5, Broadway shows such as The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, and TV shows such as The West Wing and Murphy Brown. Today she stars opposite Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston in the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie. Tomlin plays Frankie, a hippie art teacher, while Fonda plays Grace, a retired cosmetics mogul. The unlikely pair learns that their husbands, longtime co-workers played by Sheen and Waterston, are romantically involved and 38
artsLife | WINTER 2016
plan to marry one another. This year, Tomlin received an Emmy nomination as Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on Grace and Frankie, losing to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who had already won four in a row for her role on Veep. But who’s counting? Tomlin has been nominated for 24 Emmys, winning six. “The show has really been a high point in my life,” says Tomlin. “It feels good at this time in my life and career to be doing something about older women. I’m still excited about life in general.” Tomlin has always marched to the beat of her own drummer. In 1970, for example, AT&T offered her $500,000 to reprise Ernestine in a commercial. She declined, however, saying it would compromise her artistic integrity. In 1976, Ernestine appeared in a Saturday Night Live spoof of such commercials, famously proclaiming, “We don’t care, we don’t have to — we’re the phone company.”