Lily Tomlin is a true star of the theatre.
There is no doubt that Lily Tomlin is a national treasure, and for very good reasons. She has become as synonymous with humor and Americana as anything can be in our country’s comic history. Ms. Tomlin has become a huge star on the Broadway stage, the television screen, the movie screen as well as the recorded word. She is incomparable in her timing, her boundless energy and her talent. Celebrating Lily Tomlin’s collected work, the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (in Tacoma, Washington) hosted this incredible one-woman-show as part of their 2017-2018 Season.
The evening of “Classic Lily Tomlin” was definitely a success. Ms. Tomlin was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation and didn’t disappoint for a single moment of her continual two-hour show. Immediately launching into her ideals and concerns, she presented food-for-thought on some topics that are as relevant today as when they originally came to mind. “My mother told me many things growing up that weren’t true,” Ms. Tomlin stated. “She said; ‘What makes you happy makes me happy’, ‘The men in Washington wouldn’t be there if they didn’t know what they were doing’, and ‘Enough is enough’.”
Between sharing her unique train-of-thought with the audience, Ms. Tomlin also reacquainted us with several of her most beloved characters both in video and in person. Judith Beasley appears giving shopping advice on the strengths of a hairspray brand while going through extreme testing. Edith Ann returns to present the wisdom and insight to life as only a five-year-old girl can do. Agnes Angst appears rebelliously screaming how no one understands her. One of the most popular skits of the evening was the beloved telephone operator, Ernestine. Since moving from the Phone Company, Ernestine now answers the phones at an Big Business Insurance Company offering the same help and advice (snorts and all) that she has become famous for: “You got shot in the subway? Well, you should have eaten at Quiznos.”
It was perhaps the more private details of the evening that formed the strongest connections with the audience. Through her brilliant insight of sketch comedy and story telling, Ms. Tomlin shared personal stories about her childhood in Detroit. She told tales about her family life: her mother and father’s zeal, and her brother’s unique views of the world around them. In one story it was positively beautiful to witness the budding schoolgirl crush on one of her early grade-school teachers, Ms. Sweeney, and the childish heartwarming ways of deriving the teacher’s attention.
An unexpected scene was partly due to an overly enthusiastic audience member. Obviously wanting to share her excitement with her favorite celebrity, a particular fan consistently vocalized her delight and appreciation for Ms. Tomlin. It wasn’t until after several comments that Ms. Tomlin turned and handled the situation with tact, class and a touch of humor. When the (imagined) private dialogue continued, Ms. Tomlin carefully explained to the woman in question that while the passion was appreciated, the comments only served to throw her timing off, and delay the performance for everyone else in the audience. Unfortunately the excitable fan was a slow learner. Ms. Tomlin continued by exhibiting the honed skills of someone expertly trained in improvisation, getting her point across with style and grace and putting an end to the fan’s shouted commentaries.
Lily Tomlin became a household name when she appeared on the third year of the hit television show “Martin & Rowan’s Laugh In.” Since then she’s appeared in acclaimed movies such as “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” “9-5,” “Big Business,” and “All of Me” among many others. Aside from “Laugh In,” she has shown her diversity and talent extremes in such television hits as “The West Wing,” “Murphy Brown,” “Will & Grace” and most recently with the success of Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” (with former co-star Jane Fonda), that will be returning for a 4th Season in January, and will shortly be filming Season Five.
Ms. Tomlin has been with her long-term companion (now wife) Jane Wagner for over 40 years. They were married in a private ceremony New Year’s Eve of 2014. Jane Wagner has been the primary writer for Ms. Tomlin’s body of work including the Tony Award Winning Broadway play, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” Together they produced the documentary “An Apology to Elephants.”