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Lily Tomlin

About Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin, one of America's foremost comediennes, continues to venture across an ever-widening range of media, recently extending an extraordinary entertainment career with a cross-country, 29-city revival of Jane Wagner's "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," a New York revival of "The Search" on Broadway, and a record-breaking six month run of the play in San Francisco. Lily has starred in motion pictures, television, animation, theater and video. She has guest starred on numerous television shows and continues to be the voice of the science teacher Ms. Frizzle on the popular children's animated series, "The Magic School Bus," for which she was awarded an Emmy. She also received an Emmy nomination for her critically-acclaimed appearance on the NBC drama "Homicide" and played Murphy's boss for two years on the popular CBS series, "Murphy Brown."

Lily has received numerous awards: six Emmys, a Special Tony for her one woman Broadway show, "Appearing Nitely," a second Tony as Best Actress, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics' Circle Award in 1986 for her one woman performance in Jane Wagner's, "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," a Grammy for her comedy album, "This is a Recording", and two Peabody awards--the first for the ABC television special, "Edith Ann's Christmas: Just Say Noel" and the second for narrating and executive producing the HBO telefilm "The Celluloid Closet."

Lily was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of one of the city's most affluent areas. Although she claims she wasn't funny as a child, Lily admits she "knew who was and lifted all their material right off the TV screen." Her favorites included Lucille Ball, Bea Lillie, Imogene Coca and Jean Carroll, one of the first female stand-ups on "The Ed Sullivan Show." After high school, Lily enrolled at Wayne State University to study medicine, but her elective courses in theater arts compelled her to leave to become a performer in local coffee houses. She moved to New York in 1965, where she soon built a strong following with her appearances at such landmark clubs as The Improvisation, Upstairs at the Downstairs and Cafe Au Go Go.

In 1966, she made her television debut on "The Garry Moore Show," and in 1969 opened for the legendary Mabel Mercer in the Downstairs Room at the 'Upstairs at the Downstairs'. She then made several memorable appearances on "The Merv Griffin Show," which led to a move to California where she appeared on "Music Scene." In December 1969, Lily joined the cast of the top-rated "Laugh-In" and rose to national prominence overnight with her characterizations of Ernestine, the sassy telephone operator, and Edith Ann, the devilish five-and-a-half-year-old. When "Laugh-In" left the air, Lily went on to co-write and star in four comedy specials: "The Lily Tomlin Show" (1973), "Lily" (1973), "Lily" (1974) and "Lily Tomlin" (1975) for which she won three Emmy Awards and a Writers Guild of America Award. Lily's comedy recording debut, "This is a Recording," won a Grammy in 1971, and her subsequent albums "Modern Scream," "And That's the Truth" and "On Stage," were nominated for Grammys.

In 1977, Lily made her Broadway debut in "Appearing Nitely," written and directed by Jane Wagner. "Appearing Nitely" included such favorites as Ernestine, Edith Ann and Judith Beasley, the Calumet City housewife, and introduced Trudy, the bag lady; Crystal, the hang-gliding quadriplegic; Rick, the singles bar cruiser; Glenna, a child of the sixties; and Sister Boogie Woman, a 77-year-old blues revivalist. "Appearing Nitely" was later adapted as both an album and an HBO Special. The team of Lily and Jane Wagner went on to produce a pair of TV Specials, the Emmy-winning "Lily: Sold Out" (1981) and "Lily for President?" (1982).

Lily made her film debut as Linnea, a gospel singer and mother of two deaf children in Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1975). Her memorable performance was nominated for an Academy Award, and both the New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics voted Lily Best Supporting Actress. She next starred opposite Art Carney as a would-be actress living on the fringes of Hollywood in Robert Benton's "The Late Show" (1977). She went on to star with John Travolta as a lonely housewife in "Moment By Moment" (1978), and then teamed with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in the late Colin Higgins' comedy, "9 to 5" (1980). She starred as the happy homemaker who became "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" (1981), directed by Joel Schumacher from a screenplay by Jane Wagner, and the eccentric rich woman whose soul invades Steve Martin's body in Carl Reiner's popular "All of Me" (1984). She teamed with Bette Midler in "Big Business" (1988).

In the 90's, Lily starred in the film adaptation and received a CableAce Award for Executive Producing "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life In the Universe" (1991); appeared as part of an ensemble cast in Woody Allen's "Shadows and Fog" (1992); starred opposite Tom Waits in Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" (1993); and portrayed Miss Jane Hathaway in the screen adaptation of the popular television series "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1993). Lily also starred in the Miramax film "Flirting With Disaster" (1996) and joined Jack Lemmon, Dan Akroyd and Bonnie Hunt in "Getting Away with Murder" (1996). In the past few years, Lily starred opposite Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman in Buena Vista's "Krippendorf's Tribe" (1998) and co-starred with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Cher in the Franco Zeffirelli film "Tea With Mussolini" (1999). She most recently starred with Bruce Willis in "Disney's The Kid" (2000) and appeared in a quirky cameo role in "Orange County" (2002). Lily is currently the newest addition to the cast of the hit NBC series, "West Wing", playing the President's assistant. In May 2003, she will begin a six week performance run of "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, California.

For more on Lily Tomlin, visit her official Web site at

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