She is best known for creating a multitude of memorable comic characters, including Ernestine the telephone operator and the rotten five-year-old rugrat Edith Ann, on television and in her stage shows, but let it not be forgotten that Lily Tomlin is also a talented dramatic actress, something she has thus far only demonstrated in two films. She was born Mary Tomlin in Detroit, MI. She was studying premed at Wayne State University when she heard the stage calling and so dropped out to perform skits and characterizations in cabarets and coffeehouses.
Tomlin made her television debut on The Garry Moore Show but didn't get her first real break until she became a regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in 1970 and stayed through 1973. The series' machine gun pace proved the perfect outlet for Tomlin's offbeat humor and gave her the opportunity to hone her skills and develop her characters. She made an auspicious film debut with a touching dramatic role as a troubled gospel singer trying to deal with her hearing-impaired children and a womanizing Keith Carradine in Robert Altman's Nashville (1975), winning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a New York Film Critics award for the same category.