Top Ten Divas, # 7
7. Lily Tomlin
She's created the iconic characters Edith Ann, Trudy the bag lady, Judith Beasely and Ernestine Tomlin and performs them in a completely committed style that is uniquely her own. Her work is always poignant, and challenging, usually cutting through the bullshit and getting right to the truth. She's equally at home with the broadly painted characters as she is with the protagonists she's played that need a lighter touch. Her partnership with Jane Wagner is one of the most successful marriages of two artists to date, and even now it's hard to know which work was Lily's and which was Jane's.
I always loved her on Sesame Street when she would appear as Edith Ann in that over sized chair and even then, knew Edith Ann was someone on the edge, thumbing her nose at society at a time when I was simply trying to follow the rules. As I got older I listened to her comedy albums and they activated my imagination, much in the way the old radio dramas I loved did. Of course I loved her in "9 to 5", and "Big Business", and "A Prairie Home Companion".
But it was her show "The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" that won my complete devotion. I splurged on tickets in the sixth row and wasn't quite sure what to expect. I mean she was in her sixties and had been performing the show since the eighties. Could it, and she, still be fresh and relevant? As the first act was coming to a close and she was embodying the character of a lost thirteen year old girl performing in a coffee house, it felt as if she'd looked right inside me and was using my personal soul content to voice all my fear and uncertainty and powerlessness.I not only had the "goose bump experience" that the show mentions, but I had tears freely flowing down my face. It was so cathartic and healing, and the show wasn't even near it's resolution yet. I vowed never to see it again, nor would I watch the filmed version, because I knew that what I'd just seen was as good as I would get.