Happy Birthday Lily Tomlin!
Comedian Lily Tomlin was born in 1939 and grew up in Michigan with her parents and one older brother. Tomlin was not pursuing comedy when she began college at Wayne State University.
Her educational pursuit began in medicine but also decided to take theatre classes during her early years. These classes quickly became the focus of Tomlin’s life, motivating her to leave college and start performing stand up local coffee shops.
In 1965 Tomlin moved to New York to seek further opportunities in theatre. Beginning with small guest appearances on television shows it was not until joining the cast of Laugh In that she became a household name in comedy. She became especially famous for two characters, Ernestine, the sassy telephone operator and Edith Ann, a troublesome six year-old.
In 1971 while creating the character of Edith Ann Tomlin met writer Jane Wagner. Wagner and Tomlin hit it off immediately and have been a couple ever since. Tomlin went on to co-write many comedy specials with her partner. They became a powerful writing team.
Tomlin did not make her television debut until 1975 when she starred in Nashville. In the film she played the mother of two deaf children ultimately earning her a first nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After her debut she went to star in many other films. One of her most well-known performances was in the movie Nine to Five that she costarred alongside Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda.
Not only has Tomlin been successful on-screen but she has done numerous Broadway performances as well. Another collaboration with her partner, Jane Wagner, Tomlin starred in the Broadway hit Appearing Nitely in 1977, a production that was written and directed by Wagner. Tomlin has stayed active her entire career, guess appearing in television shows such as Will and Grace, and voiceovers for animated characters such as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.
Not one to shy away from boundary pushing roles in 2014 Tomlin starred in the film Grandma. In the film Tomlin plays Elle, a grandmother that is trying to raise money for her granddaughters abortion. In a recent interview, Tomlin was asked what it was about this character that she connected with. Her response showcases perfectly her willingness to always truthfully speak her mind:
Well I connected with her being a feminist. I connected with her being a feminist writer, because I had girlfriends who were feminist writers. They would be celebrated in the first wave of the feminist movement, and then as time went on feminism fell out of favor, just like other things do in life. It rolls around, and now we’ll probably have a second wave of feminism…unless Rick Santorum wins.
Most recently Tomlin has reunited with Jane Fonda to star in the Netflix original series Jane and Fonda. If you have not watched this series please do yourself a favor and start binge watching stat! My mom and I could not get enough of it, and are impatiently waiting for the second season.
Lily Tomlin is a Hollywood role model. She does what she loves and still sticks to her guns. She was an out proud feminist woman years before members of society would deem that acceptable (and I would argue many still do not). In a 1973 interview with Johnny Carson, Tomlin was asked why she wasn’t married and if she wanted kids. Her response, “I like children but don’t want to bear them. By the way, who has custody of yours?”
In the same interview Tomlin gave her views on feminism as it is presented today. I had to quote her whole answer because it was too important to cut:
One of the fallouts of feminism is that girls became more accessible. Maybe not wisely accessible. A lot of young girls—they’re expected to give blow jobs now. Young, young girls, as far as I can perceive. Maybe 12 or 13 years old. I mean, that’s a rite of passage, I suppose. As a feminist, I don’t want those girls to be used. Maybe they love giving blow jobs, I don’t know. Maybe they do? But I don’t think you really love giving boys in general blow jobs without any feeling to someone you’re not close to. I don’t try to speak for people that young. I’m not that young anymore. But my own sense of self—I wouldn’t give myself away that easily.
That’s part of the culture, and I don’t like that it’s put on teenyboppers and young girls. They should be developing themselves in a different way than just being sexually accessible. Or looking good. I don’t like it being brought back to the time where girls were competitive and disliked each other, this whole concept of cat fights and girls being jealous of one another. You still see cartoons on Saturday morning where there is the nice girl and the mean girl, and they’re competitive for the boy who is kind of goofy and ignorant . . . it’s like an old stereotype. But I don’t think you can beat too much humanity out of too many humans too quickly.
Happy Birthday to a woman who not only makes us laugh but continues to lend her voice to the important social causes of our time!