On January 29, actress, comedian, writer and producer Lily Tomlin will receive the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, an honor bestowed upon actors since 1962 for “outstanding achievement in fostering the finest ideals of the profession.” She will be presented the prize by her “9 to 5” co-stars Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.
Tomlin, who is also up for a competitive prize that evening — Best Comedy Actress for Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” (against Fonda, among others) — is hardly a stranger to the entertainment awards circuit. Having scored victories at the Primetime Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards, she is an Oscar away from that coveted EGOT status that a mere dozen artists have to date accomplished.
The Primetime Emmys marked the first awards at which Tomlin made an appearance. Since 1971, when Tomlin received her first Emmy nomination, for her performance on the variety series “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” the actress has garnered 23 Primetime Emmy bids, including half a dozen victories. Tomlin earned three nominations for “Laugh-In”; nine nominations for writing, producing and performing in the variety specials “The Lily Tomlin Show” (1973), “Lily” (1973), “The Lily Tomlin Special” (1975), “Lily” (1975), “The Paul Simon Special” (1977), “Lily: Sold Out” (1981), “Live…and in Person” (1983) and “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” (1991); a bid for producing the HBO documentary “The Celluloid Closet” (1995); and an additional seven Emmy nominations for performances in “And the Band Played On” (1993), “Growing Up Funny” (1994), “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1996), “Damages” (2010), “An Apology to Elephants” (2013) and “Grace and Frankie” (2015 and 2016).
Her six Primetime Emmy wins came for writing and producing “Lily” (1973); writing “The Lily Tomlin Special” and “The Paul Simon Special”; producing “Lily: Sold Out”; and Best Voiceover Performance for “An Apology to Elephants.”
The Golden Globes also took notice of Tomlin early on with a Best TV Supporting Actress nomination for “Laugh-In” in 1972. Subsequent bids came for the films “Nashville” (1975); “The Late Show” (1977); “All of Me” (1984); and Grandma” (2015). Tomlin was also nominated for her 2015 work on “Grace and Frankie.” She has not, however, scored a Golden Globe victory to date, sans a special award honoring the enormous cast of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” (1993), of which Tomlin was a part.
“Nashville,” also directed by Altman, marks the motion picture for which Tomlin garnered the most awards attention. It is the only film to date for which she was Oscar-nominated, ultimately losing that race to Lee Grant in “Shampoo” (1975). Beyond the Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, Tomlin’s turn as gospel singer Linnea Reese also won her a BAFTA bid (for Most Promising Newcomer, a prize she lost to fellow Oscar-nominee Valerie Perrine in “Lenny”) and Best Supporting Actress honors from the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle.
Having released comedy albums since the “Laugh-In” days, Tomlin has garnered five Grammy Award nominations, with four in the category of Best Comedy Recording – for “This Is a Recording” (1972); “And That’s the Truth” (1974); “Modern Scream” (1976); and “On Stage” (1979). Tomlin also shared a nomination, alongside fellow Emmy and Tony-winners Tyne Daly and John Lithgow, in Best Spoken Word Album for “The World According to Mr. Rogers” (2005). Her sole Grammy win came on the first nomination, for “This Is a Recording,” which holds the distinction of being the highest-charting solo comedy record by a woman to grace the Billboard Hot 200.
The Tonys awarded her the Best Actress in the Play Tony for her one-woman Broadway show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” (1986), written by longtime partner and collaborator Jane Wagner. She also garnered that year’s Drama Desk Award and in 2001, was nominated by both the Tonys and Drama Desk for producing a revival of the production.
Tomlin enters this year’s SAG Awards with three past nominations under her belt, all for her turn as Deborah Fiderer, Executive President to the President, on “The West Wing” – in 2003, for both Best Drama Actress and as part of the Drama Ensemble and again in 2005 as part of the nominated cast. First competitive SAG win this year or not, Tomlin is guaranteed to grace the stage on January 29, more than 45 years since that first Primetime Emmy nomination.
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