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Comedian Lily Tomlin will perform her one-woman show Sunday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Her latest projects include an upcoming comedy series for HBO called '12 Miles of Bad Road' and a 'Pink Panther' movie with Steve Martin.
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Comedian Lily Tomlin will perform her one-woman show Sunday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Her latest projects include an upcoming comedy series for HBO called "12 Miles of Bad Road" and a "Pink Panther" movie with Steve Martin.

Lily loves laughin'
Validate the versatile actress and comedian's funniness at her one-woman show Sunday in Huntsville

By Patrice Stewart 340-2446

Edith Ann, Ernestine, Trudy and Madame Lupe will visit Huntsville on Sunday, and you're invited, too.

Comedian Lily Tomlin will be there, and she's bringing her closest friends for her 3 p.m. performance at the Von Braun Center Concert Hall.

The characters she plays "are like real people to me. They just go on and live their lives, and they change as our culture changes," Tomlin said in a phone interview.

"It's like a family, like your children and grandchildren," she said. So she brings them along each time she books a one-woman show, just as she has for almost 40 years.

Her performance will be "like a concert — an informal afternoon of classic Lily Tomlin," she said. "I'll talk about Huntsville and the country and the world a bit, and express my characters' points of view that way. I hope to be funny, with a little underpinning."

She was doing this type of public "concert" even before she joined the television show "Laugh-In" in 1969.

"It's a form I love to work in," Tomlin said, so she continues to schedule appearances before live audiences.

She will jump from playing devilish 6-year-old Edith Ann to irascible telephone operator Ernestine.

"Ernestine was totally devastated at the divestiture — AT&T was a monopoly, and she could act any way she wanted, so she had to find other outlets to let out her animosity," said Tomlin.

The versatile actress also will transform into Judith Beasley, the housewife.

"She is fun to do because she is so good natured and wants to unite the country," she said.

Other long-time friends such as Trudy the bag lady, Madame Lupe and others may show up, too.

"I do them because they are interesting or fun or tender or any of a number of things," she said. "And if they speak to an audience, it validates me.

"The real joy of acting is playing a bunch of different things — different styles and levels of naturalism, some metaphorical, some broadly drawn, some subtle, some mysterious."

For years, Tomlin worked her one-woman shows in between taping television shows, playing the boss on "Murphy Brown" and, from 2002 to 2006, the secretary to the president on "The West Wing."

She squeezed performances in between filming movies such as "9 to 5," "The Incredible Shrinking Woman," "All of Me" and "The Beverly Hillbillies."

She also played Broadway, winning Tony Awards for one-woman Broadway shows "Appearing Nitely" and Jane Wagner's "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe." She co-wrote with Wagner and starred in six comedy TV specials.

At 68, it's not unusual for Tomlin to perform, tape TV shows and shoot movies in four cities from West Coast to East, all in the same week.

New HBOproject

She is working on a new TV comedy series for HBO called "12 Miles of Bad Road" and a new "Pink Panther" movie with Steve Martin.

Tomlin was born in Detroit, spent her early career years in New York and has lived in California since her "Laugh-In" days. She also has Southern connections. Her parents were from Paducah, Ky., and she spent summers on the family farm when she was young. Above a family store, her mother started a "museum" with a rocking chair Tomlin used as Edith Ann. Her parents are deceased now, and Tomlin frequently visits Nashville, where her brother lives.

She grew up watching and absorbing the material of Lucille Ball, Imogene Coca and Jean Carroll on TV long before her own debut in 1966 on "The Garry Moore Show."

As a child she put on shows for her family and neighbors. When she got in her first real show with all the attention, "I wished I could make a living doing it, because it was so much fun," recalled Tomlin.

"Even at 18, I was not an ingenue; I was more character oriented, so I had to create my own work," said Tomlin.

And she still does, booking 40 to 50 of her one-woman shows a year.

So, does the character-driven actress prefer working live concerts, Broadway shows, television or movies?

"It really depends on the material," said Tomlin. "The stage is more immediate and more personal. I like the fact that it's absolutely in the moment.

"And if you can make the audience believe in you, then you can take them anywhere."

If you go

What: Comedian Lily Tomlin

When: Sunday, 3 p.m.

Where: Von Braun Center Concert Hall, Huntsville, sponsored by Broadway Theatre League

Tickets: $46 to $51; call BTL at 518-6155, Ticketmaster at 800-277-1700, buy at the door or order at

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