Lily Tom­lin

A CHAT WITH THE ( STILL BUSY) COMIC LE­GEND AS SHE PRE­PARES FOR A SHOW IN HART­FORD

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Food & Dining - By MaryEllen Fillo MaryEllen Fillo is a free­lance writer based in Con­necti­cut.

Lily Tom­lin is ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite come­di­enne, bring­ing fans a host of iconic char­ac­ters in­clud­ing Ernes­tine, Edith Ann and Mrs. Ju­dith Beasley. An ac­com­plished ac­tress, writer and pro­ducer who first gained fame on the NBC com­edy Show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh- In,” the mar­ried 79- yearold has racked up a long list of awards and nom­i­na­tions for her per­for­mances in movies in­clud­ing “The Search for In­tel­li­gent Life in the Uni­verse” and “Nash­ville.” She is bring­ing the laughs to Hart­ford’s Bush­nell theater on Oct. 19 for the 21st an­nual fundraiser, “Nite of Lite Laugh­ter.” Tom­lin, who now stars in the Net­flix se­ries “Grace and Frankie,” chat­ted a bit about a host of things, in­clud­ing her comedic style, pol­i­tics, the new “9 to 5” movie re­boot and her show in Hart­ford.

Your com­edy has sus­tained over decades, even in a time when we are brasher, more ir­rev­er­ent, meaner and less dis­crim­i­nat­ing at what sub­jects be­come the brunt of the joke. You don’t seem to sub­scribe to that and yet here you are, a mega- star who seems to stay se­curely on top of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try pile. How do you ap­proach you job and what is the se­cret of your suc­cess?

I have no idea what­so­ever. I think it is be­cause I have done char­ac­ters all my life. If I am not so at­trac­tive to a fan one of the char­ac­ters is. I re­mind them of some­one in their fam­ily or maybe they sense that I come to them with a very com­pas­sion­ate view. I have a hard time shak­ing that. Some­one asked me a sim­i­lar ques­tion when Iwas do­ing some pol­i­tick­ing once, they said some­thing like ‘ how so you keep up with the times’ and all that stuff. We were talk­ing about judg­ing peo­ple or bridg­ing the gap be­tween peo­ple. I still have a hard time judg­ing some­one un­less they are so hor­ri­ble, so abu­sive, mak­ing bad choices and vot­ing against ev­ery­thing that is de­cent and just take our lives and drag it all into the abyss, then they are sort of fair game. But a per­son try­ing to get it done and mak­ing good choices and not rip­ping chil­dren from their par­ents’ arms, you cut them slack. I grew up in a work­ing class fam­ily with all kinds of peo­ple. You don’t have to be vin­dic­tive to be funny.

You are com­ing to Hart­ford for a very good cause, Hart­ford Hos­pi­tal Health­care Can­cer In­sti­tute and its breast can­cer ini­tia­tives. Have you ever spent any time in our fair state and what are you look­ing for­ward to and what can we look for­ward to?

I thought I wanted to move to Con­necti­cut once. You know, split my time be­tween New York City and there, be like Bette Davis or Ce­leste Holm. Driv­ing around in a woody sta­tion wagon with a bushel of ap­ples in the trunk. But I have played Con­necti­cut many times. I did a lot of dates at the Bush­nell, es­pe­cially in the 1970s. I’ll be bring­ing a lot of my char­ac­ters like Edith and Ernes­tine to the stage and will be us­ing a lot of video to show the his­tory of the char­ac­ters. I’ll be do­ing some mono­logues that are sort of clas­sic and mak­ing some fun of my­self.

I am so ex­cited about the “9 to 5” movie re­boot! Can’t help but half- smile be­cause as em­pow­ered as we thought we were as women when the ini­tial movie was made, well, it seems we have not come that far given there are still is­sues that make the re­make timely. Your thoughts?

We haven’t come so far at all. We are still mak­ing pen­nies on the dol­lar com­pared to men, most com­pa­nies don’t have child care at their fa­cil­i­ties. That in­equity is get­ting more at­ten­tion be­cause of the MeToo move­ment but of course there is still a lot to ad­dress. As far as the new movie, I am very ex­cited. It is still just in the writ­ing stage. Vi­o­let ( Tom­lin’s char­ac­ter in the orig­i­nal “9 to 5”) will have gone out on her own. Maybe run for pol­i­tics.

Are you and Vi­o­let at all alike?

I do think Vi­o­let and I as a hu­man be­ings are sim­i­lar. I think she would be out­spo­ken and de­lib­er­ate in her be­hav­ior and want to stick to things. That’s the way I am. I think in the new movie she will be much more con­scious and work for women’s is­sues.

Your suc­cesses are too long to list, but the cur­rent Net­flix show “Grace and Frankie” is one of my fa­vorites. What hits home with you about that show? What’s the mes­sage?

I think it is to show peo­ple that you can al­ways start over and that your women friends are very im­por­tant. Most peo­ple say that the show gives them hope.

When was the mo­ment you knew you knew be­ing an ac­tor just had to be?

When I was a kid we lived in an old apart­ment house in a tough neigh­bor­hood in De­troit. I started tak­ing bal­let and tap at park and rec depart­ment. When I went to col­lege at Wayne State Univer­sity I was pre- med, well re­ally pre premed. I got into a col­lege show where they were do­ing ridicu­lous sopho­moric ma­te­rial. That was where I did my first char­ac­ter, a take- off of a Gross Pointe ma­tron. I just adlibbed it and it was a sen­sa­tion. I de­cided ‘ well I am go­ing to New York City and get a job as an ac­tress. I worked like I was on fire. I did what I re­ally wanted to do.

What is your deca­dent in­dul­gence?

My mother’s le­mon ice­box pie with heavy whip­ping cream. I am sure that is why I have ar­te­rial prob­lems.

If you were hav­ing a din­ner party and could in­vite five peo­ple, dead or live, who would they be?

All the old come­di­ennes. Gra­cie Allen, Lucy, Joan Blon­dell, Jean Har­low, Hedy La­marr. There are so many I would like to in­vite.

What is some­thing most peo­ple don’t know about you?

I don’t know how to swim very well. And I don’t ex­er­cise but was very flex­i­ble and didn’t re­ally have much stiff­ness un­til later in life. When we were mak­ing “9 to 5,” Jane Fonda was tire­less and would want us to ex­er­cise with her ev­ery day. I would ar­rive and drag my mat away from the mir­ror and get be­hind her so she couldn’t see me and just make sounds like I was ex­er­cis­ing, you know thump­ing the ground or what­ever. She did how­ever, make me very aware of my pos­ture.

Slaven Vla­sic / Getty Im­ages

Lily Tom­lin vis­its Build Se­ries to dis­cuss Net­flix's "Grace and Frankie" in New York City in Jan­uary. Be­low, her char­ac­ter Ernes­tine on “Laugh- In.” Tom­lin ap­pears in at the Bush­nell theater on Oct. 19.

NBC / NBC via Getty Im­ages

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