Lily Tomlin

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I've seen these women all my life, I know how they walk, I know how they talk…

Lily Tomlin (born 1 September 1939) is an American actress, comedian, writer, and producer who has been a major force in American comedy since the late 1960s, when she began a career as a stand-up comedian and became a featured performer on television's Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. She is married to her longtime companion and collaborator Jane Wagner.

Quotes[edit]

And that's the truth!
I have always felt that humor was a wonderful vehicle to let us become connected with each other and ourselves…
  • I've seen these women all my life, I know how they walk, I know how they talk...
    • Response after being asked how she felt playing a heterosexual in Nashville, on her album Modern Scream (1975)
  • Truth is, I've always been selling out. The difference is that in the past, I looked like I had integrity because there were no buyers.
    • Modern Scream (1975)
  • There's so much plastic in this culture that vinyl leopard skin is becoming an endangered synthetic.
  • What if it's boring... or if it's not boring, it might be too revealing, or worse, it might be too revealing and still be boring.
    • Referring to her teenage diary, in an interview in Movie magazine (July 1983)
  • I have always felt that humor was a wonderful vehicle to let us become connected with each other and ourselves… I try to portray the similarities and polarities in men and women, so that we can acknowledge and embrace our collective consciousness.
    • As quoted in Variety magazine (2003)

Saturday Night Live (1975)[edit]

Wouldn't it be great if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be? The world would be full of nurses, firemen, and ballerinas.
Saturday Night Live (25 November 1975)
  • Wouldn't it be great if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be? The world would be full of nurses, firemen, and ballerinas.
  • Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?

The Advocate interview (2005)[edit]

I feel some part of me can wake up and be very existential and the next day wake up and be sort of in love with the universe.
Interview with Alonso Duralde, "Thoroughly modern Lily" (15 March 2005)
  • I feel some part of me can wake up and be very existential and the next day wake up and be sort of in love with the universe.
  • When you talk about yourself for 35 years, first of all, it gets repetitious. And then it seems a little bit excessive, at the least.
  • People think there's some real subversive thing playing against whoever it is; a lot of it is just people who want to go along and get along. And they also want to make money. And the bottom line is, they're going to put out as much stuff as they can — stupid, banal stuff that makes money.
  • The larger picture is really to swing people's awareness of what really is moral. ... There are great clergy-people who absolutely do not agree with this. It's not whether God is on our side or whether we're doing God's will, it's being so narcissistic as to think that God is telling you what to do.
  • We went to a Southern Baptist church. When I was a small child, until I was about 8 or 9 years old, I worried if I didn't go forward and get saved every Sunday — which I couldn't do, it was absolutely too humiliating to see these adults flailing and beating their breasts and sobbing, and I thought, Oh, my God, this is so ridiculous, so embarrassing — I could never bring myself to go forward. And I'd think, Oh, my God, if I don't go next Sunday, if the end of the world comes, I'll go to hell. And that's is a pretty hard thing for a 7- or 8-year-old to carry all the time
  • The point I want to make is, the idea that people will say — out of the 170,000 people or however many were killed in the tsunami — they'll say, "God saved me." As if God particularly saved this person. There's a tremendous amount of narcissism in that belief, that God is speaking directly to you. I mean, it's unbelievable. … All these disparate opinions and points of view that people say they're getting as direct divine guidance — I've been concerned for decades about presidents who claim to be born again. And knowing that everyone I knew in the fundamentalist church or in the evangelical Christian church — they wanted the rapture to come. … We don't have to save the environment, because we're not going to be around.

Metro Weekly interview (2006)[edit]

It's so crazy not to do the human thing. It seems to me to be much more profitable to do the human thing. It just makes a better society.
Interview with Randy Shulman in Metro Weekly (27 April 2006)
Jane took me to another level because she's truly a wonderful writer. I'd put things together in the past and struggled with them. And then I met Jane...
Some people will bring certain celebrities up to me who are presumably — or known to be — gay and ask "Why don't they come out?" But we don't know why they don't, and it's none of our business, really.
Nobody is here without a reason. … I like a huge range of comedy … but I always wanted my comedy to be more embracing of the species rather than debasing of it.
  • 9 to 5 made people aware of equal pay for equal work. It hasn't really happened, but it has come closer. We're aware of sexual harassment, and of course, there are very few companies that have daycare centers, which seems to me would be the most humane, positive thing to do for a worker. The worker would be more loyal, they'd be more productive. It's so crazy not to do the human thing. It seems to me to be much more profitable to do the human thing. It just makes a better society.
  • Jane took me to another level because she's truly a wonderful writer. I'd put things together in the past and struggled with them. And then I met Jane. … I was doing my Edith Ann album in '71 — the album came out in '72. She'd done a thing on television called J.T. — it was about a kid in Harlem — and she won a Peabody for it. I later learned it was the first thing she'd ever written.
    It was written as an After School Special, but they played it in prime time — and they played it every year after that for about 25 years, or something. Anyway, I saw it and it was wonderful. It was poetic and sensitive and satiric and tender and funny and so many things compressed into this one hour. And I thought, "Oh, God, this is exactly what I want in a monologue." So I wrote Jane and asked her to help me do the Edith Ann album. I didn't hear from her for a while. Then, suddenly, about a week before I was supposed to go in and record, she sent me a lot of material. I persuaded her to come to California and help me produce it. Frankly, I was pretty taken with her as soon as I saw her. We just sort of clicked. We became a couple right away.
  • I respect her talent and her brain and who she is as a person — and that kind of admiration and respect is a big factor in binding someone in a relationship. I know what a good heart she has, and how empathetic she is with all kinds of people and issues — she's so brilliant on top of it that she can voice these things. And she's as funny as she can possibly be. She makes me laugh.
  • Some journalists are just motivated by their own sense of what they want to say or what they feel comfortable saying or writing about. In '77, I was on the cover of Time. The same week I had a big story in Newsweek. In one of the magazines it says I live alone, and the other magazine said I live with Jane Wagner. Unless you were so really adamantly out, and had made some declaration at some press conference, people back then didn't write about your relationship.
  • Listen, I have no judgment about anything. Some people will bring certain celebrities up to me who are presumably — or known to be — gay and ask "Why don't they come out?" But we don't know why they don't, and it's none of our business, really. In '75 I was making the Modern Scream album, and Jane and I were in the studio. My publicist called me and said "Time will give you the cover if you'll come out." I was more offended than anything that they thought we'd make a deal. But that was '75 — it would have been a hard thing to do at that time.
  • It's a more ridiculing, divisive humor today, especially with the advent of political incorrectness, which is a license to be as ridiculing and awful about certain groups... There should be room for everybody, absolutely, and then the culture is going to decide the prevailing weight. We can't decide it individually. Nobody is here without a reason. … I always had a different sensibility. I like a huge range of comedy — from broad and farcical, the most sensitive, the most understated — but I always wanted my comedy to be more embracing of the species rather than debasing of it.

Contributions of Jane Wagner[edit]

The best mind-altering drug is truth.
Material in Tomlin's acts credited to Jane Wagner at Tomlin's classic site.
  • Don't be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.
  • For fast acting relief, try slowing down.
  • If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?
  • If the formula for water is H2O, is the formula for an ice cube H2O squared?
  • If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?
  • If you read a lot of books, you're considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well-viewed.
  • Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.
  • The best mind-altering drug is truth.
  • The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
  • Why is it when we talk to God we're said to be praying — but when God talks to us, we're said to be schizophrenic?
  • Interviewer: You once said you had a drug problem...
    Lily: Yeah, I still do. It's so hard to find good grass these days.

As Edith Ann[edit]

  • I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (1985)[edit]

Sometimes I feel like a figment of my own imagination.
As performed by Tomlin; written by Jane Wagner
Remember we're all in this alone.
  • Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.
    • As "Trudy"
  • Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it....
    • As "Trudy"
  • Reality is a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs.
    • As "Trudy"
    • Unsourced variant: Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.
  • When you're dancing the mystical dance of the molecules, you're not the one who's leading.
    • As "Trudy"
  • It's my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
    • As "Trudy"
    • Unsourced variants: I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
      Man invented language to satisfy his deep inner need to complain.
  • If evolution was worth its salt, it should've evolved something better than "survival of the fittest." I think a better idea would be "survival of the wittiest." At least, that way, creatures that didn't survive could've died laughing.
    • As "Trudy"
  • All my life, I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.
    • As "Chrissy"
  • If I had known what it would be like to have it all... I might have been willing to settle for less.
    • As "Lyn"
  • Sometimes I feel like a figment of my own imagination.
    • As "Chrissy"
  • No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.
    • As Lily
    • Unsourced variant: No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.
  • I bet the worst part about dying is the part where your whole life passes before you.
  • Your problem is your role models were models.
  • I swear people don't want sex so much as they want somebody who'll listen to 'em … the first thing you learn after fellatio is how to listen.

External links[edit]

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