Comic icon brings Edith Ann and Ernestine to Santa Clarita
by Kevin Kelton
Lily Tomlin will bring her unique brand of stand-up comedy to Santa Clarita this weekend with a one-woman show on Saturday, June 1 in the Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons.
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Tomlin, who became famous in the 1960s and ‘70s with her appearances on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, has starred in movies and television series. But she has always had a special place in her heart for being a solo performer who can talk directly to a live audience.
“It’s my version of stand-up. I do ten or twelve characters. And I use some video to satirize myself or reveal something about a character,” said Tomlin.
The 73-year-old comedienne describes her live show as “a filmic roller coaster.”
“It’s a form that I loved as a kid. I had a teacher in grade school who used to read dialect poems on Fridays. And of course I grew up on radio, too, because we didn’t get a TV until I was 10.”
Tomlin says her goal is always to make the show as interactive as possible. She enjoys “just being able to (entertain an audience) with your voice and your body, and switch between characters. And people go on the trip with you. It’s a form I’ve always been in love with. It’s just magical.”
But along with plenty of new material, Tomlin will be joined on stage by many of her most popular characters. “Of course I do Ernestine and Edith. I don’t think I could get out of the building if I didn’t,” she quipped.
Tomlin likes to end her act with an audience Q&A, which is always popular because of its impromptu nature.
“And of course I’ll talk about Santa Clarita.”
A show about being human
Tomlin has headlined two Broadway shows, “Searching for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” and “Appearing Nightly,” as well as a one-woman show in Las Vegas, “Not Playing with a Full Deck.”
“They were really much more scripted, booked shows,” the actress said of those productions. “What I do now is more contemporary in terms of talking to the audience about the world and about Santa Clarita and just about being human.”
Speaking of the twelve character pieces she does in her show now, Tomlin says she hopes the characters are relatable and funny to a wide audience. “I hope they are just familiar to ourselves as human beings and make you laugh at yourself and have some kind of clarity or illumination.”
“My intention is always to embrace the species even though we have a lot of weak points,” she said.
The media glare
Tomlin and her partner, writer-director Jane Wagner, have been together professionally and personally for 42 years. But she feels she was able to circumvent the harsh glare of the entertainment media largely because of the journalistic morality that existed during the period when she was first becoming famous.
“At the height of my popularity, people were just more discrete, especially if they liked you or regarded you well. In large, they would not write about your personal life or try to bring you down or degrade you in some way,” she observed. Comparing it to the more aggressive, no-holds-barred tabloid press of today, she said, “I think I just lucked out in terms of the time span.”
That includes the fact that she has been able to be so open about her personal life, which includes an unusually stable long-term relationship by Hollywood standards. “My partner, Jane Wagner, and I have been together 42 years. And we can’t figure that out, either.”
Mellowed by the years
Although she is still politically active, Tomlin says she has mellowed over the years.
In 1970, she was approached by AT&T to do a commercial as Ernestine, the bawdy phone operator. The company offered her a half million dollars to use her comedic character to promote their service. Tomlin turned it down.
“I was really idealistic. I was horrified that they thought I would sell my character. But that’s how we were in those days.”
Now, says Tomlin, “I’m more forgiving of the world a little bit.”
Lily Tomlin’s one-woman show is on Saturday, June 1, at 8 p.m. in the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at the College of the Canyons. Tickets are $85, $70 and $55.
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Source: Santa Clarita News