50 facts about comedian and actress Lily Tomlin

Her breakout role was performing as a cast member on the variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1970 until 1973. Learn 50 facts about Lily Tomlin.

1. Her full name is Mary Jean Tomlin.

2. She is an actress, comedian and writer, singer and producer.

3. Tomlin began her career as a stand-up comedian, and performing Off-Broadway during the 1960s.

4. Her breakout role was performing as a cast member on the variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1970 until 1973.

5. She currently stars on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie as Frankie Bergstein.

6. Her performance as Frankie garnered her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015.

7. In 1974 Tomlin was cast by Robert Altman in her first film.

8. Her performance as Linnea Reese in Nashville won her several awards and nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

9. In 1977, her performance as Margo Sperling in The Late Show won her the Best Actress Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and nominations for the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Lead Actress.

10. Her other notable films include 9 to 5, All of Me, Big Business, Flirting with Disaster, Tea with Mussolini, I Heart Huckabees, and A Prairie Home Companion and Grandma.

11. Her signature role was written by Jane Wagner, in a show titled The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe which opened on Broadway in 1985 and won Tomlin the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play.

12. She is also known as the voice of Ms. Frizzle on the children's series The Magic School Bus.

13. She won her first Emmy Awards in 1974 for writing and producing her own television special, Lily.

14. Tomlin won a Grammy Award for her 1972 comedy album This Is a Recording.

15. In 2014 she was given Kennedy Center Honors.

16. Tomlin was born in Detroit, Michigan.

17. Her mother Lillie Mae was a housewife and nurse's aide.

18. Her father Guy Tomlin was a factory worker.

19. She has a brother, Richard Tomlin.

20. Tomlin's parents were Southern Baptists who moved to Detroit from Paducah, Kentucky, during the Great Depression.

21. She is a 1957 graduate of Cass Technical High School.

22. Tomlin attended Wayne State University and originally studied Biology.

23. She auditioned for a play, and it sparked her interest in a career in the theatre and she changed her major.

24. After college, Tomlin began doing stand-up comedy in nightclubs in Detroit and later in New York City.

25. She continued studying acting at the HB Studio.

26. Her first television appearance was on The Merv Griffin Show in 1965.

27. In 1969, after a stint as a hostess on the ABC series Music Scene, Tomlin joined NBC's sketch comedy show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Tomlin was an instant success on the already established program, in which in addition to appearing in general sketches and delivering comic gags.

28. Tomlin was one of the first female comedians to break out in male drag with her characters Tommy Velour and Rick.

29. In 1982, she premiered Pervis Hawkins, a black rhythm-and-blues soul singer (patterned after Luther Vandross), with a mustache, beard and close-cropped afro hairstyle, dressed in a three-piece suit. Tomlin used very little, if any, skin-darkening cosmetics as part of the character, instead depending on stage lighting to create the effect.

30. 'Ernestine' and 'Edith Ann' were by far Tomlin's most popular characters. She occasionally performed as them in various television special programs over the years.

31. In 1970, AT&T offered Tomlin $500,000 to play her character 'Ernestine' in a commercial, but she declined, saying it would compromise her artistic integrity.

32. In 1976 she appeared on Saturday Night Live as 'Ernestine' in a Ma Bell advertisement parody in which she proclaimed, "We don't care, we don't have to...we're the phone company." The character later made a guest appearance at The Superhighway Summit at UCLA, January 11, 1994, interrupting a speech being given on the information superhighway by then-Vice President Al Gore.

33. She appeared as three of her minor characters in a 1998 ad campaign for Fidelity Investments, which did not include 'Ernestine' and 'Edith Ann.'

34. In 2003, she made two commercials as an "updated" 'Ernestine' for WebEx.

35. Tomlin brought 'Edith Ann' to the forefront again in the 1990s with three animated prime-time television specials. She published Edith Ann's "autobiography" My Life, co-written with Jane Wagner.

36. Tomlin released her first comedy album on Polydor Records in 1972, This Is A Recording, an album of Ernestine's run-ins with customers over the phone. The album hit #15 on the Billboard Hot 200, becoming the highest-charting album ever by a solo comedienne.

37. Tomlin's second album, 1972's And That's The Truth, a collection of monologues as Edith Ann, was nearly as successful, peaking at #41 on the chart and earning another Grammy nomination.

38. Tomlin's third comedy album, 1975's Modern Scream, a parody of movie magazines and celebrity interviews features her performing as multiple characters, including Ernestine, Edith Ann, Judith and Suzie.

39. Her 1977 release Lily Tomlin On Stage, was an adaptation of her Broadway show that year.

40. Tomlin made her dramatic debut in Robert Altman's Nashville, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she played Linnea Reese, a straitlaced, gospel-singing mother of two deaf children who has an affair with a womanizing country singer (played by Keith Carradine).

41. Tomlin soon had the greatest hit of her film career with 1980's 9 to 5, in which she played a secretary named Violet Newstead who joins coworkers Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in seeking revenge on their monstrous boss, Franklin M. Hart, Jr., played by Dabney Coleman. The film was a huge success and one of the year's top-grossing films.

42. Tomlin starred in the 1981 science fiction comedy, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a send-up of consumerism, and was the sickly heiress in the comedy, All of Me, opposite Steve Martin.

43. Tomlin and Bette Midler played two pairs of identical twins who were switched at birth in the 1989 comedy, Big Business.

44. Tomlin also played chain-smoking waitress Doreen Piggott in Altman's 1993 ensemble film Short Cuts, based on stories by Raymond Carver.

45. Tomlin performed in two films by director David O. Russell; she appeared as a peacenik Raku artist in Flirting with Disaster and later, as an existential detective in I ♥ Huckabees.

46. She played Rhonda Johnson, one half of a middle-aged Midwestern singing duo partnered with Meryl Streep.

47. In 2015, Tomlin starred in filmmaker Paul Weitz's film, Grandma, which Weitz said was inspired by Tomlin, garnered rave reviews and talk of award nominations.

48. Tomlin was the first woman to appear solo in a Broadway show with her premiere of Appearing Nitely at the Biltmore theatre in April 1977.

49. She made the cover of Time magazine with the headline "America's New Queen of Comedy".

50. In 1989, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

© 2022 Booms Beat, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Lily Tomlin

Share Connect Tweet 0 Comment Email


Real Time Analytics