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Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin

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Also Known As: Mary Jean Tomlin Died:
Born: September 1, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: actor, comedian, comedy writer, secretary, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

With an illustrious career that spanned decades on stage and screen beginning in the 1960s, academic-minded actress-comedian Lily Tomlin found a penchant for mimicry and social commentary that wove its way into the fabric of American culture. After making her debut on "The Garry Moore Show" (CBS, 1950-1967), Tomlin made a splash on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" (NBC, 1968-1973), particularly as the nasally telephone operator Ernestine. She went on to become a Grammy-winning recording artist for her comedy album, This Is a Recording (1972), while also starring in and co-writing three primetime television specials, each of which won Emmy Awards. Tomlin made her feature film debut as a troubled gospel singer in Robert Altman's landmark "Nashville" (1975) before appearing on Broadway for the first time in her one-woman show, "Appearing Nightly" (1977), which she co-wrote with life partner Jane Wagner. She skyrocketed to superstardom opposite Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in the hit comedy "9 to 5" (1980), while her one-woman show, "The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe" (1986), earned Tomlin a Tony Award. On television, she delivered an acclaimed performance in "And the Band Played On" (HBO,...

With an illustrious career that spanned decades on stage and screen beginning in the 1960s, academic-minded actress-comedian Lily Tomlin found a penchant for mimicry and social commentary that wove its way into the fabric of American culture. After making her debut on "The Garry Moore Show" (CBS, 1950-1967), Tomlin made a splash on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" (NBC, 1968-1973), particularly as the nasally telephone operator Ernestine. She went on to become a Grammy-winning recording artist for her comedy album, This Is a Recording (1972), while also starring in and co-writing three primetime television specials, each of which won Emmy Awards. Tomlin made her feature film debut as a troubled gospel singer in Robert Altman's landmark "Nashville" (1975) before appearing on Broadway for the first time in her one-woman show, "Appearing Nightly" (1977), which she co-wrote with life partner Jane Wagner. She skyrocketed to superstardom opposite Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in the hit comedy "9 to 5" (1980), while her one-woman show, "The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe" (1986), earned Tomlin a Tony Award. On television, she delivered an acclaimed performance in "And the Band Played On" (HBO, 1993), while giving inspired performances in "Short Cuts" (1993) and "Flirting with Disaster" (1996). Though she struggled in later years to rediscover her big screen success from the early 1980s, Tomlin remained capable of turning in an acclaimed and often unexpected performance that reminded everyone of her immense talent.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:


CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Admission (2013)
3.
 Stars In Shorts (2012)
5.
 Vito (2011)
6.
7.
 Ponyo (2008)
8.
 Walker, The (2007)
9.
 Ant Bully, The (2006)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1965:
Moved to NYC and began performing skits on coffee-house circuit, including the Improvisation, Upstairs at the Downstairs, and Cafe Au Go Go
1965:
First television appearance, "The Merv Griffin Show" (NBC)
1966:
First performed comic monologues on TV as a regular on "The Garry Moore Show" (CBS)
1969:
Made Off-Broadway debut in "Arf"
1969:
Joined sketch comedy show "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (NBC); introduced memorable TV characters such as telephone operator Ernestine and five-year-old Edith Ann
1971:
Released first album <i>This Is a Recording</i>
1973:
First comedy variety show special, "Lily" (CBS)
1975:
Starred in CBS comedy special "The Lily Tomlin Show"; co-wrote with Jane Wagner and Richard Pryor
1975:
Made film debut as a troubled gospel singer in Robert Altman's "Nashville"
1977:
Made Broadway debut in one-woman show "Appearing Nitely"; also co-wrote and co-directed with Jane Wagner
1977:
Starred opposite Art Carney as a would-be actress living on the fringes of Hollywood in Robert Benton's "The Late Show"
1980:
Teamed with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in Colin Higgins' workplace comedy "9 to 5"
1981:
TV debut as executive producer, "Lily: Sold Out"; also co-wrote
1981:
Played lead role of a happy homemaker who turns into "The Incredible Shrinking Woman," written by Jane Wagner
1984:
Co-starred with Steve Martin, playing a sickly heiress in Carl Reiner's "All of Me"
1985:
Starred on Broadway in Jane Wagner's critically acclaimed one-woman show "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe"
1986:
Subject of documentary "Lily Tomlin" by Nicholas Broomfield and Joan Churchill; featured scenes from "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe"
1988:
Teamed with Bette Midler, playing two pairs of identical twins who were switched at birth in comedy "Big Business"
1991:
Starred in film adaptation of "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life In the Universe"
1992:
Appeared as part of an ensemble cast in Woody Allen's "Shadows and Fog"
1993:
Played chain-smoking waitress Doreen Piggott opposite Tom Waits in Robert Altman's "Short Cuts"
1993:
Cast as San Francisco health official Selma Dritz in HBO special about the AIDS epidemic "And the Band Played On"
1994:
Voiced science teacher Ms. Frizzle on popular children┬┐s animated series "The Magic School Bus"
1995:
Delivered memorable guest appearance on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC)
1995:
Narrated and executive produced HBO film "The Celluloid Closet"
1996:
Co-starred with Alan Alda as Ben Stiller's biological parents in David O Russell's "Flirting with Disaster"
1996:
Joined CBS series "Murphy Brown" as producer Kay Carter-Shepley, replacing Grant Shaud for show's final seasons
1996:
Reprised "Laugh-In" character for ABC television special "Edith Ann's Christmas: Just Say Noel"
1998:
Joined Ed Asner for memorable episode of "The X-Files" (Fox) playing husband-and-wife ghosts
1999:
Co-starred in Franco Zeffirelli's semi-autobiographical "Tea With Mussolini"
2000:
Reprised Tony-winning role in Broadway revival of "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe"
2002:
Joined NBC drama "The West Wing" in recurring role of presidential secretary Deborah Fiderer
2004:
Re-teamed with director David O. Russell to play an existential detective in "I Heart Huckabees"; famously clashed with Russell on set
2005:
Cast in recurring role as Eric McCormack's boss Margot on NBC's "Will & Grace"
2006:
Re-teamed with director Robert Altman, playing half of a middle-aged Midwestern singing duo with Meryl Streep in ensemble feature "A Prairie Home Companion"
2006:
Voiced Lucas' kooky grandmother Mommo in animated feature "The Ant Bully"
2008:
Joined fifth season of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" in recurring role of Kathryn Joosten's sister
2010:
Joined cast during third season of FX's "Damages"
2012:
Played Reba McEntire's no-nonsense mother on ABC sitcom "Malibu Country"
2013:
Cast opposite Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in "Admission," directed by Paul Weitz
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Wayne State University: Detroit , Michigan -
Cass Technical High School: Detroit , Michigan - 1957

Notes

"No one practices more than I do. In the beginning I was forced to make up stuff, but it was mediocre. As soon as I met Jane [Wagner], everthing took a leap, because she's far superior to me... in verbal acuity. I'll spend the rest of my life explaining that Jane is the writer and I don't write. We both have the same sensibility; she's just a lot smarter. She combines everything, it's funny, satiric, passionate, emotional, and it's poetic."---Lily Tomlin to DETAILS magazine, October 1991.

Tomlin came up with an unusual sales pitch for direct-mail and magazine ads pushing a collection of five of her videotapes; "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," "Appearing Nightly," "Lily Sold Out," "Lily for President," and "Ernestine: Peak Experience," for a total of $120. Each customer gets a lock of Tomlin's hair ("a valuable hairloom").---From ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, January 8, 1993.

Tomlin received the Jack Benny Award for Excellence in Entertainment from UCLA.

She was named "Star of the Year" by the Motion Picture Bookers (1991)

Reportedly, Tomlin reneged on a promise to Armistead Maupin to publicly 'come out' if he agreed to work on "The Celluloid Closet". Maupin (best known for "Tales of the City") wrote the narration for the documentary which Tomlin recited.

"My feeling was the narrator should be an openly gay person or a sympathetic straight person. Instead, I have to endure the cruel irony of a film called "The Celluloid Closet" narrated by a closeted person!"--Maupin quoted by Michael Musto, VILLAGE VOICE, January 30, 1996. Also reported in NEW YORK POST, January 25, 1996.

Tomlin "Came out" as a lesbian in an interview stating: "I don't like to talk about my private life in any detail, but I don't disavow my private life."

"I also don't want to become someone's poster girl, either. And, you know, that's been somewhat difficult in terms of the movement. I've tried to be as simple and direct as I can without being exploited or tabloidized."---Tomlin in Us Weekly, January 22, 2001.

"There's a certain limit to what you can achieve without having any real credentials," explains Tomlin. "If you represent yourself as someone who knows everything, then you're going to end up in a farce."---Tomlin to AARP magazine, January 21, 2003.

www.lilytomlin.com

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Jane Wagner. Writer.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Guy Tomlin. Automotive factory worker.
mother:
Lillie Mae Tomlin. Nurse's aide.
brother:
Richard Tomlin. Actor, poet. Younger, born c. 1943.

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