Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Lily Tomlin (born Mary Jean Tomlin on September 1, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan), is an American actress and comedian. She first became well-known for her character skits on television's Laugh-In, in which she created several indelible characters that have stayed with her and become associated with her throughout her career, including the gum-chewing, wisecracking, snorting telephone operator Ernestine (famous for her lines "One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy" and "A gracious good morning to you ... Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?") and the bratty five-year-old Edith Ann, rocking in her oversized rocking chair and making rude noises (famous for her line "And that's the truth!").
Tomlin was the daughter of a factory worker and a housewife who moved to Detroit from Paducah, Kentucky during the Great Depression. Tomlin attended Wayne State University, where her interest in the theater and performing arts began. After college, Tomlin began doing stand-up comedy in nightclubs in Detroit and then New York City. Her first television appearance was on The Merv Griffin Show in 1965. Tomlin joined the Laugh-In cast in 1969. AT&T offered Tomlin $500,000 to film a commercial using her character Ernestine, but Tomlin turned the offer down because she thought the commercial would compromise her artistic integrity.
Tomlin is noted for her wide range. For example, she played Linnea Reese, a strait-laced mother of two deaf children who has an affair with a country singer played by Keith Carradine, in Nashville; secretary Violet Newstead in Nine to Five; and a sickly heiress in All of Me . Tomlin also voiced of the character of Ms. Frizzle for The Magic School Bus cartoon series (1994-1997). Also in the 1990s, Tomlin appeared as a regular on the popular sitcom Murphy Brown. Tomlin currently plays presidential assistant Deborah Fiderer on the TV show The West Wing.
Tomlin starred in the 1985 hit one-woman Broadway show The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe , written by her long-time romantic partner, Jane Wagner. The show won Tomlin a Tony Award. It was made into a feature film in 1991. Tomlin revived the show for a brief run in 2000.
Though Tomlin is now open about being lesbian, the media doesn't focus on this aspect of her personal life. In fact, many of her fans are unaware of her sexual orientation. Tomlin came out in 2000 on the New York City cable-access TV program Gay USA . Actually, Tomlin frequently referred to Wagner, but avoided saying point-blank that she herself was, in fact, gay.
- Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers (1972) (voice only)
- Nashville (1975)
- The Late Show (1977)
- Moment by Moment (1978)
- 9 to 5 (1980)
- The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)
- All of Me (1984)
- Lily Tomlin (1986) (documentary)
- Big Business (1988)
- The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1991)
- Shadows and Fog (1992)
- The Player (1992) (Cameo)
- (1993) (documentary)
- Short Cuts (1993)
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)
- The Celluloid Closet (1995) (narrator)
- Blue in the Face (1995)
- Flirting with Disaster (1996)
- Getting Away with Murder (1996)
- Krippendorf's Tribe (1998)
- Reno Finds Her Mom (1998) (documentary) (also executive producer)
- Get Bruce (1999) (documentary)
- Tea with Mussolini (1999)
- Picking Up the Pieces (2000)
- The Kid (2000)
- Orange County (2002)
- Lily's Detroit (2004) (short subject)
- Superstar in a Housedress (2004) (documentary)
- I Heart Huckabees (2004)
- Goodnight, We Love You (2004) (documentary)
- Seniors (2006) (currently in pre-production)
- A Prairie Home Companion (2006) (currently in pre-production)
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