Expect some truly local comedy when Lily Tomlin visits Edmonds Oct. 1

LIly Tomlin as Ernestine. (Image courtesy of Tomlin and Wagner Theatricalz)
Tomlin comes to Edmonds for two shows Oct. 1. (Photo by Greg Gorman/2009)

Politicians, you’ve been warned. Lily Tomlin, who comes to Edmonds next month with her stand-up comedy show, was delighted to learn that our city is in the midst of a spirited mayor and city council election campaign.

“I’ll read a lot about Edmonds,” the long-time comedienne promised during a phone interview with My Edmonds News Friday. “I’m going to try to look into the town and see what kinds of elements I can work in.”

Tomlin, who will appear in 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows at the Edmonds Center for the Arts Saturday, Oct. 1, said that she always tries to refresh her show with local material, so she can be relevant to her audience. But you can also expect a routine involving Ernestine, the snorting telephone operator that Tomlin made famous with her “one ringy dingy” line on the late 1960s/early ’70s comedy “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.”

“I don’t think I could get off stage without doing Ernestine,” said Tomlin, but did note that she has updated the character. “She’s changed jobs,” Tomlin said. “She’s now working for a large insurance company where she spends her day denying health insurance to everyone.”

One look at Tomlin’s list of credits during her career, and it’s clear that she hasn’t slowed down since her “Laugh-In” days. “I keep saying I’m going to pull back,” Tomlin said, “but then a project comes along that seems right and it’s hard to say no.”

Born in Detroit in 1939, Tomlin grew up in a working-class neighborhood and claimed she wasn’t funny as a child, but “knew who was and lifted all their material right off the TV screen.” After high school, she enrolled at Wayne State University to study medicine, but her elective courses in theater inspired her to leave college and perform at local coffee houses. She moved to New York in 1965, made her television debut in 1966 on “The Garry Moore Show” and then “The Merv Griffin Show.” She went to California and became a regular on the show “Music Scene,” then in December 1969 joined the cast of top-rated “Laugh-In,” delighting audiences with her portrayals of Ernestine and Edith Ann, the devilish 6-year-old in the giant rocking chair.

When “Laugh-In” left the air, Tomlin co-wrote and starred in six comedy television specials, for which she won three Emmys and a Writers Guild of America award. She has guest starred on numerous TV shows, such as “Homicide,” “X-Files” and “Will and Grace,” and played the boss for two years on the popular “Murphy Brown” series. In 2002, she joined the cast of “The West Wing,” and this past season made several guest appearances on “Desperate Housewives” and “Damages.” She currently starts as Lisa Kudrow’s narcissistic mother on Showtime’s new series “Web Therapy.”

Her film career included roles in “Nashville,” “The Late Show,” “9 to 5” and “Big Business,” “Tea with Mussolini” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” Tomlin has also appeared in numerous Broadway shows, including “Appearing Nightly,” “The Search for Sign of Intelligent Life in the Universe” and “The Search.”

Before she comes to Edmonds, Tomlin said she will make a stop in Seattle to join a group of elephant advocates protesting the elephant exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo, a cause that she has long advocated for. “It’s so apparent that they don’t belong in captivity,” Tomlin said. “A lot of major zoos have closed their elephant exhibits.”

For tickets or more information about Tomlin’s show, visit the ECA website.

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