Lily Tomlin biography
Date of Birth: September 1, 1939
Best known for creating a multitude of memorable comic characters, including Ernestine the
telephone operator and the rotten five-year-old rugrat Edith Ann on television and in her
stage shows, Lily Tomlin is also a talented dramatic actress.
Born Mary Tomlin in Detroit, Michigan, she was studying pre-med at Wayne State University
when she heard the stage calling and dropped out to perform skits and characterizations in
cabarets and coffee houses. She made her television debut on The Garry Moore Show, but did
not get her first real break until she became a regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
from 1970 through 1973. The series machine-gun pace proved the perfect outlet for
Tomlin's off-beat humor and gave her the opportunity to hone her skills and develop her
She made an auspicious film debut with a touching dramatic role as a troubled gospel
singer trying to deal with her hearing-impaired children and a womanizing Keith Carradine
in Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) and received a New York Film Critics award and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Her next film, The Late Show (1977), was also more dramatic than comic and Tomlin again
won kudos, though not in the form of awards, for her work. While she started off
strongly in films, her subsequent output was of uneven quality ranging from the
entertaining Nine to Five (1980) and All of Me (1984) to the abysmal
Big Business (1988).
Though her film career has never quite taken flight, Tomlin remains successful on stage,
in clubs and on television. On Broadway, Tomlin has had two successful one-woman-shows,
Appearing Nitely (1976) and The Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1986)
which Tomlin made into a film in 1991.
She appeared in Orange County with Catherine O'Hara and John Lithgow. She also played the regular role of Deborah Fiderer on the hit TV series The West Wing in 2002 before returning to the big screen with a role in I Heart Huckabees (2004), starring Jude Law. More recently, she starred in Grandma (2015).
In 2003, Tomlin won the Kennedy Center's prestigious Mark Twain Prize for Humor. Other awards include Tony Awards in 1977 and 1986; A 2002 Career Tribute from the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival; a shared Golden Globe with the cast of Short Cuts (1993); four Emmy Awards, five American Comedy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987) and a Grammy award in 1971 for her comedy album "This is a Recording."
Lily Tomlin Filmography