The marvelous multi-character monologist makes her A.C. debut at the Borgata Saturday
Whether you’ve been a fan of Lily Tomlin since her days as a regular on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, her Academy Award-nominated film work, award-winning stage presentations or of more recent vintage, gigs on The West Wing and Desperate Housewives, you have watched a comic genius at work. And, when called upon, she can deliver the drama as well, hence her Academy Award nomination for Robert Altman’s Nashville.
Now 70, the Detroit native has never slowed down. She is currently working on developing a Desperate Housewives spin-off based on the scheming sisters Roberta and Karen McCluskey, played by Tomlin and Kathryn Joosten, respectively. In one of those wacky coincidences of television, both actors played presidential secretaries on The West Wing; Joosten as the beloved Mrs. Delores Landingham, Tomlin as the offbeat Debbie Fiderer.
Not one to wait around while the show is put together, Tomlin is back on the road. To hear her tell it, she has never been off the road, taking every opportunity to tour when not working on film and TV projects. Her show at the Borgata this Saturday, is however, her Atlantic City debut. You can expect to see all the fan favorites like Ernestine the telephone operator, six-year-old Edith Ann and Trudy the baglady.
In a phone interview from California, Tomlin talked about her career and what’s got her riled up in the political arena.
What go out on the road again?
I’ve been going on the road since Laugh-In. I always had an act. Unless I was playing a Broadway show I would go out and do 40 or 50 dates a year. People often think I’m starting or ending a tour but it’s a tour that’s pushing 40 years.
You must love the immediate feedback of a live crowd.
Even as a kid, I’ve always had an act I was performing for my family or imitating them or doing something I thought would make them laugh. I still want to do that, only I have a lot more relatives now.
What’s the show like? Will we see all our favorite characters?
You’ll see the characters [doing material] relevant to what’s going on today.
What’s the story on the Desperate Housewives spin-off?
We’re developing that. We’re working with a writer from the show and see if anybody wants to make it. There is interest.
How do you feel about being a regular again in a series?
I adore television. I’m doing six episodes of Damages. I’m mad for that show. (Editor’s note: Tomlin will knock heads with star Glenn Close as a rich New York matriarch, with Campbell Scott playing her son and Martin Short as her lawyer.)
As a film critic I’ve loved many of your movies, including The Late Show, which was underappreciated at the time . What are some of your favorite films?
I loved that movie too. Of course Nashville was the first movie, and [Robert] Altman directed that and also produced The Late Show, which Bob Benton directed. All Of Me [with Steve Martin] I adore. And 9 to 5 because of Dolly [Parton] and Jane [Fonda] and it was such a big grosser. I love my movies with David O Russell [I Heart Huckabees, Flirting With Disaster] because he is so original and Big Business with Bette [Midler]. When I finished that movie, Bette gave me a big plaque saying I had done graduate work at the Midler School of Mugging, Every movie had something I liked about it.
You had the opportunity to work with Robert Altman many times.
I loved Short Cuts because I got to work with Tom Waits and The Prairie Home Companion, his last film, with Meryl [Streep]. Any film I did with him was special because I loved him.
Did he do as much improvisation as we’ve heard?
Of course if he didn’t like it, it wouldn’t use it. We’d be doing a long scene and we would drop a [scripted section] and improvise and the other person would pick it up and go with it. Unlike other directors, he was never opposed to people talking over each other, as most people do in life. We developed that style as we were doing it. Meryl is so much fun to work with and she loves to fool around and be surprised.
We’ve heard the cliché that it’s much tougher for women to get work in Hollywood after age 40. What’s you take? Is it easier if you do comedy?
I think it’s a lot easier if you’re a character person, if they don’t think of you as the romantic lead. A guy who’s 65 or 70 can have a romantic interest who is 30. Those poor actresses … even Meryl had a brief lull before she began to play more character parts. Then she comes back and is just dynamite in Devil Wears Prada and Mama Mia. She is astounding; she has my reverence.
You have been politically active your entire career. What’s pissing you off lately?
[The movement] to stop Obama, to somehow destroy his presidency. Healthcare is his Waterloo; Afghanistan is his Vietnam. It was like with Gore. He could not do anything right and President Bush had a free pass for so long. What really gets me is this incredible, greedy, aggressive partisanship, on both sides, really. The Republicans seize every opportunity to be negative. I don’t have any more respect for the Democrats when they have so much in their hands and they should do so much more. There was a time when people went into public service to serve the public.
There is only one way to sum up this delightful chat with Lily Tomlin. Edith Ann says it best: “And that’s the truth.”
Who: Lily Tomlin
Where: Borgata Music Box
When: Saturday, Oct. 24, 9pm
How Much: $50, $65
Through appearances on 'The Tonight Show,' a hilarious HBO 'On Location' special and appearances on 'Saturday Night Live,' Martin was a bona fide comedy star who was still a year away from his breakout movie role in 'The Jerk. '
Casino Club & Lounge Entertainment
Taste of Revel Returns