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Tomlin's in a talking mood

Lily Tomlin, who will bring an arsenal of comic characters to Segerstrom this weekend, found that pantomime wasn't for her.

June 22, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Comedian Lily Tomlin will take the stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Comedian Lily Tomlin will take the stage at Segerstrom… (Matt Hoyle )

Lily Tomlin's stint in mime lasted all of three weeks.

It stands to reason — she likes words too much.

"With your words, you are trying to impact the audience and make them feel all kinds of things," said Tomlin, 73, who tried miming when she was a fledgling performer in college. "Everybody can't see your face or your eyes, so the words, whether they're comedic or dramatic, have to carry the emotion."

Tomlin, who got her first taste of performing arts working at a New York talent agency during her sophomore year at Wayne State University, will take the stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Saturday. Titled "An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin," the 90-minute show will feature 10 or 12 characters from the comedienne's cache.

Having previously seen the Los Angeles resident live in Houston, Segerstrom President Terrence Dwyer is "thrilled" to host Tomlin at a performance for the local community. She last performed at Segerstrom in 2009.

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"Lily was hilarious, heartwarming and dramatic," he said. "I've seen her on many TV shows, and it was wonderful to watch her in action — she's very generous and warm-spirited."

Growing up in a rough Detroit neighborhood, Tomlin went door to door, spending time with and picking up habits from every resident of her apartment building, all of whom she described being "mad" about. As a young child, she also observed her ballet teacher Mrs. Fitzgerald hosting yearly programs, which in turn sparked her interest in doing the same.

Demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit early on, Tomlin launched a "dime business" — walking dogs, taking out the trash, babysitting — before she was 10. She then used her income to learn magical illusions, employ her friends as assistants and buy props for her shows.

"Everything I saw, I was influenced by," said Tomlin, who not only performed in her mother's slip, but also picked up tidbits from the TV and radio. "I wanted to represent, replicate or interpret it."

Being part of a "blue-collar working-class family," though, she didn't have to do much to exceed her parents' economic achievements, she said. Both were very supportive of the path Tomlin eventually chose.

"A mark of success in my neighborhood was if the girl didn't get pregnant and the boy didn't go to jail," Tomlin said. "I'm exaggerating, but it was a little bit of that."

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