Mary Jean “Lily” Tomlin (born September 1, 1939) is an American actress, comedian, writer and producer who has won several Tony Awards and Emmy Awards, plus a Grammy Award. During her 40-year career she was also nominated for an Academy Award.
Tomlin was also one of the first female comedians to break out in male drag. Though drag had been around in Hollywood for some time by men, Tomlin broke new ground by not only crossing gender stereotypes, but racial ones as well. She accomplished this in the late 70's with 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 (it usually depended on stage lighting) as part of the character.
AT&T offered Tomlin US$500,000 to play her character Ernestine in a commercial, but she declined saying it would compromise her artistic integrity. However, in 1976 she did appear as Ernestine in a parody of a commercial on Saturday Night Live , in which she proclaimed, "We don't care, we don't have to...we're the phone company." The character would later make 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. In 2003, she made two commercials as Ernestine for WebEx.
Tomlin is noted for her versatility. In Robert Altman's Nashville, for which she was nominated for the 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 country singer played by Keith Carradine. She was also a secretary Violet Newstead in Nine to Five, performed several comedic roles in the 1981 film The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and was a sickly heiress in the Steve Martin comedy All of Me.
She and Bette Midler played two pairs of identical twins who were switched at birth in the 1989 comedy Big Business, set at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Tomlin also played chain-smoking waitress Doreen Piggott in Altman's 1993 ensemble film Short Cuts, and, 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.
Tomlin voiced Ms. Frizzle on the animated television series The Magic School Bus from 1994 to 1998. Also, in the 1990s, Tomlin appeared on the popular sitcom Murphy Brown as the title character's boss. In 2005 and 2006, she had a recurring role as Will Truman's boss Margot on Will & Grace. She starred on the dramatic series The West Wing for four years (2002-2006) in the recurring role of presidential secretary Deborah Fiderer.
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 life partner, writer/producer Jane Wagner. The show won her a Tony Award, and was made into a feature film in 1991. Tomlin revived the show for a brief run in 2000. In 1989, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.
|1969||Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In||Ernestine, the telephone operator; five -year old Edith Ann; tasteful lady; other characters|
|1973||Lily (1973 special)|
|1974||Lily (1974 special)|
|1975||The Lily Tomlin Special|
|1975||Nashville||Linnea Reese||Academy Award nomination - Best Supporting Actress|
|1977||The Late Show||Margo Sperling|
|1978||Moment by Moment||Trisha Rawlings|
|1980||9 to 5||Violet Newstead|
|1981||The Incredible Shrinking Woman||Pat Kramer/Judith Beasley|
|1984||All of Me||Edwina Cutwater|
|1988||Big Business||Rose Ratliff/Rose Shelton|
|1991||The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe||Various Roles|
|1992||Shadows and Fog||Prostitute|
|1993||The Beverly Hillbillies||Miss Jane Hathaway|
|And the Band Played On||Dr. Selma Dritz|
|Short Cuts||Doreen Piggot|
|1995||Blue in the Face||Waffle eater|
|1996||Getting Away with Murder||Inga Mueller|
|Flirting with Disaster||Mary Schlichting|
|1996-98||Murphy Brown||Kay Carter-Shepley|
|1998||Krippendorf's Tribe||Prof. Ruth Allen|
|1998||The X-Files||Lyda on "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas"|
|1999||Tea with Mussolini||Georgie Rockwell|
|2002-06||The West Wing||Deborah Fiderer|
|2002||Orange County||Charlotte Cobb|
|2004||I Heart Huckabees||Vivian Jaffe|
|2006||A Prairie Home Companion||Rhonda Johnson|
|2006||The Ant Bully||Mommo||Voice|