WHAT: An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin
WHERE: State Theatre
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m.
COST: $42- $52
Generation Y may only know her as the voice of Ms. Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus,” but virtuoso comedienne, actress and performer Lily Tomlin had long before made a lasting mark on the world of comedy. On Feb. 13, Tomlin will bring her inimitable one-woman show to Minneapolis.
The show’s “classic” designation may be somewhat misleading.
“It’s a compilation of characters I’ve done over all these decades, but the material is not necessarily that material,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin’s fans are sure to find their old favorites, such as incorrigible gossip, Ernestine, and mischievous child Edith Ann, but they’ll find Tomlin has tailored her characters’ contexts to suit the changing times.
“I certainly try to keep everything relevant,” Tomlin said. “Ernestine has been working at a health care insurance corp for a while now, you know, denying health care to everybody, and she also has a reality-based webcast chat show.”
Tomlin created Ernestine while living in New York in the ’60s. She found herself among the many who were frustrated with AT&T’s deteriorating service and its “nefarious political shenanigans”with the Watergate scandal. Tomlin responded with a humorous take on the company by parodying it in the form of a nosy telephone operator.
“She threatened people and got all that information and wielded all that petty bureaucratic power,” Tomlin said.
Since her television debut on “Laugh-In,” a seminal ’60s and ’70s sketch comedy show, Ernestine has become a cultural icon.
When satirizing the wiretapping performed by the Bush administration, political cartoonists frequently drew Ernestine into their panels.
A Tomlin character comes into the world in many ways.Whether it is her “Rubber Freak,” the woman with an erratic rubber-eating habit, created out of Tomlin’s obsession with inedible substances, or Tommy Velour, the Vegas headliner invented specifically to lampoon Las Vegas, Tomlin’s innumerable stage personalities are illustrative of her highly generative performance style.
Tomlin uses her many characters as unique instruments with which she articulates her commentary on specific cultural niches.
“Some culture types are people you want to do because you see them — you kind of just love them, you know?”
The “classic” evening of Lily Tomlin will surely feature her iconic standby stage personas, but Tomlin will also be delivering fresh and relevant content and experimenting with new material.
“I want it to be an exhilarating experience — I mean, that’s my objective. It doesn’t mean it has to be so polished.”
When it comes to the creation and portrayal of any new culture-types, Tomlin feels it takes an intimate familiarity before she can feel comfortable performing them.
“You come to another group that I’m not terribly experienced with — I wouldn’t feel that I knew them enough to do it from the inside out,” she said. “You just have to live the life a bit.”
Raised in a black neighborhood in Detroit, Tomlin refers to her life experience when crossing racial boundaries in her performances.
“I never felt any reservation about playing black characters, because I felt like I understood that culture in a way that authenticated me doing it,” she said.
Tomlin’s career has spanned five decades, crossed all disciplines and genres and touched all levels of prestige. Considering her invention of innumerable iconic characters and an extensive body of work, one might think Tomlin lays claim to a driving force that sets her apart from the regular person, but she says it’s very much the opposite.
“I’m just like any other poor old human on the planet trying to make sense of it,” she said.
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