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Tomlin brings her act to Hillel

Photo Courtesy of JANICE FREY
Lily Tomlin - Actress and comedienne Lily Tomlin brings her humor to Centennial Hall Saturday. Her latest film is "I Heart Huckabees," in which she is hilarious.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 3, 2005
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From "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" to an existential detective, veteran comedian Lily Tomlin seems to have played it all, but admits she probably would not have made it as a doctor.

Although Tomlin says she was always entertaining and imitating people as a child, she began performing during her college years at Wayne State, when she was pre-med.

"I just always loved to do characters and imitate people in the neighborhood and things I thought were funny. I'd see a neighbor or an aunt doing something and I'd think it was so funny and I'd just want to do it," Tomlin said. "Either it spoke to me like some essence of their humanity or it's just funny just something humanly funny."

Tomlin's resume is impressive, spanning four decades and almost every genre of performance including stand-up comedy, one-woman Broadway shows, television and film. But she gets her greatest thrills from live performance.

"I always like to do a live performance most of all. If you can take the audience on the trip with you, you can do anything and go anywhere. It's usually more personal. It becomes a validation for you and a connection for the audience," Tomlin said.

But Tomlin came on to the comedy scene during a time when female comedians were not acceptable and that stigma was something that challenged her.

"A lot of people's view at that time of women doing comedy was you had to be scatter brained or fat or ugly or something had to be a little bit off. You couldn't be good looking or anything like that. How can you do stand-up, you lose your femininity?" Tomlin said.

Tomlin paved her own way in female comedy by creating memorable and groundbreaking characters, which have increased in number over the years to give her a bounty of material to work with. This is what has allowed her to continue to perform in so many different genres.

She uses these characters to explain real life situations that the audience can relate to.

"I do 10 to 12 characters and through the characters talk about what goes on in this life and on this planet and satirize all kinds of different elements of the culture," Tomlin said.

Tomlin's performances, like the one the Hillel Foundation is sponsoring on Saturday, are free form including an element of audience interaction.

"It's not like a Methodist ritual where I speak from the gospel and they respond," Tomlin said.

But one ritual she brings to her performances is incorporating every day occurrences as her topic of comedic discussion.

"Anything that you can think of that resonates with you, might inspire material or a monologue. Or I might just do something on my family that I think is really funny that I think speaks to others. You're just laughing at being a human with other humans," Tomlin said.

Tomlin's comedy is not one that ridicules or uses scare tactics to force her audience uncomfortably into humor. She doesn't agree with that.

"I don't like humor that's divisive or ridiculing of another group or person. I mean we all need to be ridiculed and so we might as well all be in it together rather than one group or person against another," Tomlin said.

The Hillel Foundation in conjunction with UApresents, presents Tomlin's performance on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Centennial Hall. Full price tickets range from $37 to $57. Student and child tickets are $19.50, $24.50 or $57.

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