Lily Tomlin March 24, 2007
Lily Tomlin Show is a Lulu
By Glen Creason
“No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”
Lily Tomlin visited the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday and left it just as it was except a little warmer and wiser. The celebrated lady has been more than a comedienne or actress for the past several decades, elevating herself to more of a sage status through stage, screen and tube appearances. She is a household name and has been considered THE first lady of humor since she was compared to the great Richard Pryor back in the 70’s. In this one-woman show there is absolutely no frills, no pretensions, no profanity and no stone unturned. You have got to be mighty confident to come out and face thousands of people who paid plenty good money and all you have to offer them is words. Ms. Tomlin had just a stool and an empty stage yet enthralled the full-house for a solid 90 minutes, and then sweetly responded to a Q&A after. Lily has seemed to make her way in the world with this talent, sort of a survival of the wittiest. She was dressed comfortably to draw attention to her characters and not to her person. Oh yes, she was fantastic as half a dozen ladies or children including Edith Ann; Trudy the Homeless Lady; Judith Beasley, southern housewife; Ernestine the operator; Madame Lupe, the octogenarian beauty expert and Sister Boogie Woman. All of them were unique, ingenious and performed with an accompanying physical comedy skills that made them come to life on the stage. Lily Tomlin sometimes seems to channel Will Rogers and at other times Charley Chaplin. The beauty of her humor is that it is gentle and insightful without judging the weaknesses of our fellow human beings. She makes fun of all of us, including and especially herself.
She made the show personal, addressing the locals about her dreams of playing Cerritos as a child tongue in cheek. Yet her many compliments and sincere designation of the place as world-class certainly got her off on the right foot. While her wicked, sharp political barbs seemed to draw less enthusiasm from the conservative crowd she kept using the truth as her lightening rod. There was Trudy calling “reality just a collective hunch.” Edith Ann and her tale of purloined animal crackers, Ernestine took Governor Arnold to task for privatizing her phone company and Judith Beasley told a racy story involving “hamburger helper for the bedroom.” Yet the finest moments came in the interims between characters when Lily Tomlin talked as Lily about her own coming of age in Detroit. The story of her angry teenage years involving her parent’s humdrum discussion of cake was utterly brilliant. The long tale of a childhood crush on her grammar school teacher was both touching and hilarious. Also a colorful fantasy about being a waitress at Howard Johnson’s showed her middle-class roots that she has never stood away from even after considerable stardom. And of course, she is brilliant in physically assuming the persona of all these characters. None of said characters were more convincing than the ancient Madame Lupe which involved the transformation of Ms. Tomlin’s age right before our eyes. This versatility allowed Lily Tomlin to quote Andre Malraux on one hand and offer six-year old Edith Ann’s raspberry to the crowd on the other. Without a prop in sight, she left the packed house, standing in cheerful admiration and ovation.