Lily Tomlin born
Born in Detroit to transplanted Southerners, Lily Tomlin grew up between cultures, a position that in many ways gave her a position to observe the quirky characters all around her. Tomlin later remarked, “We lived in a big old apartment building in Detroit. I know I’ve gotten some of my characters from there. The people in that building were funny, sad, dear, noble, touching—I loved them.” If she got her material from the neighborhood, she got much of her humor from her mother, who’d regularly pepper their lives with witticisms, like, “Wake up and smell the garlic. I tried the roses and they didn’t work.” Tomlin entered college at Wayne State University with a pre-med declaration, but drama classes quickly pushed her to quit school and seek her fame on stage in New York. There she was coached by Charles Nelson Reilly, who introduced her to the monologist work of Ruth Draper, a writer-performer esteemed for her entertaining and dramatically complex one-woman shows. Tomlin starting appearing on television variety shows in the early sixties, which led to her being cast in Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, where she originated many of her more famous characters, like Ernestine, the snorting telephone operator, and the self-possessed five-year-old Edith Ann. And just as her routine was seriously funny, Tomlin could also be entertainingly serious. She proved this in 1976 when Robert Altman cast her in his masterpiece Nashville, a movie in which she gave an Oscar nominated performance. Since then, Tomlin has never stopped working, be it in television, film, or on stage doing the one-woman shows (like her 1986 Tony-Award wining The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe), created by her and her life partner Jane Wagner.