Laughing with Lily Tomlin
“One ringy dingy...two ringy dingy...”
With those iconic words spoken in 1969, Lily Tomlin introduced herself to the world on Laugh-In. Her characters quickly became pop culture favorites and are still recognized and appreciated today.
Since that beginning, Tomlin has worked.
Now with a career that has spanned more than four decades, Tomlin has compiled a staggering list of films, credits, Broadway shows, and comedy tours that rivals most in the entertainment industry. Along the way, she has garnered a few awards: six Emmys, two Tony awards, a Grammy, and various other prestigious awards in multiple venues, including two Peabody awards — one of which was earned for her role as narrator and executive producer for HBO’s The Celluloid Closet. In 2003, she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Having already been made numerous guest appearances on such television shows as Desperate Housewives and Damages, Tomlin has most recently been featured in Eastbound and Down and NCIS and even stopped by RuPaul's Drag Race to be a guest judge. There has been no slowdown in sight for the fabulously funny diva, as Tomlin will soon be shooting a TV pilot with Reba McEntire.
With all that on her plate, one has to wonder how she still finds time to tour.
“Hysteria,” she answers with a one-word reply.
As part of her new tour, Tomlin brought her eclectic blend of beloved characters and offbeat musings to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Sunday, April 29. Along with favorite characters like the once-upon-a-time phone operator Ernestine and the five year-old Edith Ann, audiences were greeted with the “heterosexual interview” — a witty counter to the usual hand-wringing over same-sex marriage.
“If all same-sex couples start acting like heterosexual couples,” she muses, “it becomes a slippery slope. I mean, what’s next? Monster truck rallies?”
If being a comic means getting to tell the truth, then Lily Tomlin has become the resident truth-teller in the GLBT community. A lesbian in a long-term relationship with partner Jane Wagner, she has lived her truth at a time when being gay was not nearly as accepted as now.
“In those days, it just wasn’t talked about,” Tomlin says of her early career. “I never made a secret of being with Jane, but the press just didn’t say anything about it.”
In 1975, she was offered the cover of Time Magazine to come out, but Tomlin turned them down. “To me, it wasn’t how I wanted to get the cover,” she explains. “I wanted the cover for what I was doing, for my performances — not for that.”
In 1977, however, Time Magazine approached her with a cover proposal again. This one she accepted and was quickly proclaimed the “New Queen of Comedy”.
A lot has changed within the GLBT community since Time approached her with their original cover idea. After numerous other celebrities began coming out on magazine covers, Tomlin finally agreed to do the same for Time in 2010 but with her own headline “I Was Gay before You Were!”
Though she is good-humored and supports the GBLT movements sweeping the nation, especially the push for same-sex marriage rights, Tomlin and Jane currently have no stated plans to marry. “I’m not sure if Jane could even make it on time,” she says with a laugh. “As for who wears what, that’s just another mess!”
Being on a cover will always be important for Lily Tomlin. When informed that her friend and 9 to 5 costar Dolly Parton would also be featured in this month’s issue of Out & About Newspaper, she pursed her lips and squinted her eyes in her signature fashion: “What? Ooh, she’s getting the cover isn’t she? You wait till I see her, I’m going to give her a piece of my mind!”