At 76 years old, Lily Tomlin has proven herself to be an acting and comedic badass who’s been making audiences laugh — and cry — for decades.
She can play a clever, street-wise, independent woman as easily as she can play a vulnerable ex-wife who’s just had her life turned upside down.
The comedy icon has been bestowed with a lot of awards throughout the years, but now she’s adding one more. It’s a pretty big one: The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is giving her the Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2017.
Here are eight reasons why Lily Tomlin totally deserves this latest recognition:
1. Her first film role earned her two award nominations, and she’s been winning awards and nominations ever since.
Tomlin was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 1975 for her performance as the mom of two deaf children who has an affair — Robert Altman’s “Nashville.”
The year prior, she had won her first Emmy for her comedy special simply titled “Lily.” She would later go on to win two Tonys, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a Kennedy Center Honor, and two Peabody Awards, among many others.
One of her latest accolades is a 2015 Golden Globe nomination for the titular character in “Grandma.”
2. She refuses to let ageism in Hollywood get in her way.
Any comedian will tell you it’s not always easy making people laugh. Female comedians will probably tell you it’s even harder. And if you’re an older female comedian? Sometimes it’s like Hollywood doesn’t even know what to do with you.
But Lily Tomlin is just that good. She’s managed to keep us laughing and tuning in to her career for almost 50 years, no matter what Hollywood producers say about women.
3. She’s not afraid to play strong female characters, even if they might make us feel uncomfortable.
From her antics as a cold-as-a-cucumber secretary in 1980’s “Nine to Five” to her latest bad-grandma role in the 2015 movie “Grandma,” she’s OK playing an unlikable character, as long as the story is worth telling.
4. She cares about the work she does. To her, it’s not just about being famous.
Lily has carved an impressive career out of bringing all types of characters to life. While they’re not all necessarily likable, she has a way of making them feel human, like they’re real people. From her nosy and all-too-familiar character Ernestine to playing hilariously outspoken 5-year-old Edith Ann (complete with the oversized outfit), she always makes each role memorable.
5. She’s multitalented beyond her acting abilities, with many writing and producing credits to her name.
Since winning her first Emmy in 1974, she has starred in five more comedy specials she wrote and produced alongside her wife and longtime producing partner, Jane Wagner.
It’s one thing to have the presence and charisma to hold an audience, but it’s entirely another to have the talent and wit to write and produce the show as well. Lily and Jane seem to have found a winning formula and stuck to it — on and off the stage.
6. She’s an incredibly generous humanitarian who cares deeply about the LGBTQ community and animal rights.
Lily is known for her big heart. She works extensively to support the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Lily herself is a proud member of the LGBTQ community, although she says she never felt the need to hold a press conference to either confirm or deny her sexual orientation. She and Jane have been together since 1971 and got married in 2013.
She also lends her time to animal causes, like this ad she did for PETA in April 2016 in which she reprised the role of Ernestine, one of her classic comedy characters.
7. She says what’s on her mind, especially when she sees injustice in the world.
In an interview with The Wrap, Tomlin told the story of a fancy dinner she attended where she was seated next to a wealthy architect. She was so frustrated by him that at one point she turned to him and asked: “Don’t you think we should try just a little bit harder to make the world a little bit better for just a few more people?”
Disappointingly, his answer was a simple “No.”
8. She was the voice of Ms. Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus.”
Women as multifaceted as Lily Tomlin are a rare breed in Hollywood, and they should be celebrated more.
“She has an ability to create diverse and distinct characters that are at once familiar, eccentric, and oh so honest — in a way that illuminates life’s hidden corners,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said.
Cheers to SAG and to Tomlin for this awesome recognition of a woman who has managed to dance to the beat of her own drum while carving out a meaningful and impressive career along the way.