getting to know lily tomlin

the latest in our week-long series
March 06, 2015  |   column: DELIBERATE POLISH



who: comedian, actress, writer—and to some, she will always and forever be five-and-a-half-year-old edith anne (“and that’s the truth!”).

what: in 1969, tomlin joined the cast of the sketch comedy rowan and martin’s laugh-in (also starring the similarly hilarious goldie hawn), where she cultivated such classic comedy characters as the condescending telephone operator ernestine, the advice-dispensing ‘tasteful lady,’ and the aforementioned youngster edith anne, who punctuated each monologue with a raspberry. aside from television, tomlin conquered the charts (she has two of the three top-charting female comedy albums on billboard); the big screen, appearing in nashvillenine to fivethe incredible shrinking womani heart huckabees, and more; and the stage, earning a tony for her one-woman broadway show, the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. written with her partner and longtime collaborator, jane wagner, the show addresses everything from women’s liberation to politics to kitchen equipment with hilarity. in december 2014, she was recognized at the annual kennedy center honors.

when: she was born mary jean tomlin in 1939 in detroit, michigan. in 1965, she made her first television appearance on the merv giffin show, and though laugh-in only ran from 1969-1973, the show set her up for decades of comedy. she’s still making us laugh.

in her words: “all my life, i’ve always wanted to be somebody, but i see now i should have been more specific.”

Filed under: deliberate polish