(In 2003, however, she did make two commercials as Ernestine for WebEx.) Tomlin parlayed her TV fame into recording success. Her first comedy album, This is a Recording, a compilation of Ernestine’s confrontations with customers, reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 200. It became the highest-charting album ever by a solo comedienne, and earned a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. Subsequent albums, all featuring Tomlin’s characters, were nominated for Grammys as well. In 1975, she made her film debut in Robert Altman’s Nashville, snaring an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Tomlin’s biggest film hit, though, was 1980’s 9 to 5, in which she played a secretary who joins co-workers Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in humiliating their chauvinist boss, played by Dabney Coleman. She later starred in the The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and All of Me (1982) opposite Steve Martin. Other notable film roles included I Heart Huckabees (2004), in which she and Dustin Hoffman played a pair of detectives, and A Prairie Home Companion (2006), in which she and Meryl Streep played a pair of folksinging sisters. In 2015, she earned a Golden Globe nomination for her star turn in Grandma. Filmmaker Paul Weitz said he created the role of a feminist poet mourning for her partner of 38 years specifically for Tomlin. A groundbreaking live performer, Tomlin starred in the first one-woman Broadway show, Appearing Nitely, in 1977. That same year, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine alongside a headline declaring her to be America's “New Queen of Comedy.” In 1985, Tomlin starred in another one-woman Broadway show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by longtime partner Jane Wagner, who she married in 2014. The show, which won a Tony, was made into a feature film in 1991, and enjoyed a Broadway revival in 2000. But Tomlin’s most
prestigious kudos were still to come. In 2003, she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and in 2014, she was one of five Kennedy Center Honorees. “I got a letter inviting me to the Kennedy Center Honors and I thought I’d just been invited to attend,” says Tomlin. “Then Jane called me and said, ‘Did you see the letter?’ I said, ‘Yeah, just inviting us to the ceremony.’ And she said, ‘You’d better go read it again.’” Tomlin is also involved in an array of philanthropic causes, including co-founding the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center and the Goosebump Garden at the LGBT Fenway Health Center in Boston. She’s also a noted animalwelfare and anti-homelessness activist. Although she certainly doesn’t need to tour, Tomlin says she still performs live “because my agent calls me up and I just get sucked back in.” But it’s worth it, she says, because she enjoys presenting modernday versions of her classic characters. Ernestine, for example, now works for a healthcare company. And Edith Ann is still a 5-year-old. “But she’s sort of a kid of the times, more hip and current with technology and certain subjects that would be on a kid’s mind.”
EVENT: An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin DATE/TIME: Saturday, February 4, 2017, 8 p.m. VENUE: Walt Disney Theater NOTES: The legendary comedienne presents a multimedia stand-up routine that incorporates her most famous characters, including Edith Ann, the 5-year-old philosopher, and Ernestine, the obnoxious telephone operator. TICKETS: Prices start at $35 844.513.2014 • drphillipscenter.org
DID YOU KNOW? As a child, Tomlin admired pioneering female comedians including Lucille Ball, Bea Lillie, Imogene Coca and Jean Carroll. After high school, she didn’t immediately follow a career in show business, but instead enrolled at Wayne State University to study medicine.
artsLife | WINTER 2016