Legendary comedienne Lilly Tomlin to play Clark State PAC

Lilly Tomlin invites you to be her blind date.

That’s the strategy she takes on stage, wanting to make a good impression on each audience member, whether they have followed her since her days on the TV show “Laugh In,” her movies or countless other appearances.

“That audience relationship is something you want to really go well and express your point of view,” she said.

“An Evening of Classic Lilly Tomin” will showcase what has made her nearly 50-year career endure, including classic characters such as precocious child Edith Ann and the sarcastic telephone operator Ernestine.

The show — on March 8 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center — is appropriate for all audiences and co-presented by Clark State and the Springfield Arts Council.

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Tomlin is that rare breed of star who has had success on stage, screen and television.

She was part of the new wave of comediennes evolving from Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller. Tomlin found her stride on the popular series “Laugh In,” introducing Edith Ann and Ernestine, and became a star.

“I was always attracted to eccentric characters,” she said. “I would imitate my neighbors, aunts, parents. I would develop monologues. It was in college I was in a show that was a hit and I got the bug.”

This led to comedy albums, stage tours, prime-time television specials and eventually movies. Her first film, “Nashville,” earned Tomlin an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in 1975, and she would collaborate with its acclaimed director Robert Altman on three other films.

“We had the same agent and back then TV actors didn’t transfer well to movies, so that was a big break for me.”

It was nothing new as Tomlin would earn slews of honors including Tony Awards and Emmy Awards.

She went on to star in Hollywood hits “9 to 5,” “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” and “All of Me.” Tomlin has remained relevant, steadily working in all mediums, including recent appearances on modern hits like NCIS and East Bound and Down.

Her most recent film project, “Admission,” teamed Tomlin with one of the hottest modern female comics, Tina Fey, whose mother Tomlin played.

But for all she’s accomplished, Tomlin credits her longevity and popularity to staying true to herself.

“I’ve been lucky to do a lot of different things and come into great situations. I’ve had great people along with my own strong sensibility.”

She’s still enthusiastic about doing Ernestine, Edith Ann and several other characters, keeping them relevant to today’s audience.

“Most of what I do is so human, grounded in a culture type. I like my show to be free form and I prefer an intimate theater where the audience is close. I love doing question-and-answer sessions and just have fun.”

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