When Lily Tomlin won her first Emmy in 1974 for her TV special “Lily” (Best Writing in Comedy-Variety, Variety or Music), she delivered one of the most memorable Emmy acceptance speeches ever when she said: “This is not the greatest moment in my life because on Friday I had a really great baked potato at Niblick’s on Wilshire.” While the legendary comedienne, who returns to Las Vegas June 18-19, embarrassedly admitted to icedjamb.com when asked about her favorite Vegas restaurants that she’s “eaten at so many places, she can’t think of just one,” she still could recall some great chicken soup she enjoyed at a deli counter in Las Vegas once—she just couldn’t remember which hotel it was in.
“I’m so disappointed in my lack of expertise,” Tomlin said with a laugh. “I’ll find some great sushi bar, but then I won’t know the name of it. I probably enjoy eating at the same places everyone else does, though: Bobby Flay’s (Mesa Grill inside Caesars Palace) or one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants (which include Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand, Delmonico Steakhouse at The Venetian, Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo and Table 10 at The Palazzo).”
While Tomlin may not remember where she likes to eat all the time, she definitely knows what kind of food she enjoys.
“I love macaroni and cheese and banal comfort food like mashed potatoes,” she stated. “I also love anything that’s incredibly prepared. I really like layered flavors, where you’re not sure just how something is put together—or even if the flavors go together—but then the contrast of tastes is simply marvelous. Really, though, I don’t think I have the most sophisticated palate, but I don’t have the least sophisticated palate, either; food just has to taste good.”
Tomlin said that whenever she’s on the road, she loves when people tell her someplace is good, as if she went with what was familiar, she’d end up eating at Applebee’s all the time.
“I like going into the hip section of towns where there’s usually a lot of small restaurants,” she said.
When asked what she doesn’t like about dining out, the woman who’s made millions of people laugh for more than 40 years just laughed and replied, “I hate when someone is laughing too loudly at the table next to me, which is funny because I’m sure that many times that person is me. But whenever I hear someone laughing too loud I just think, ‘Be quiet!’”
“I also don’t like when a waiter hovers too much or is too inquiring,” Tomlin continued. “Or when a restaurant is so noisy that you have to scream at the person you’re with just to be heard. I also don’t like anything that’s awkward or unpleasant, like when it’s hard to get out of a booth—but I don’t let those types of things spoil the evening. Generally, I just like to go out with some friends, even if it’s just in the hotel I’m staying at, and laugh.”
Tomlin definitely knows the restaurant business, as she (briefly) used to wait tables at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant on 49th and Broadway during the ’60s. Always the performer, Tomlin remembers ducking down behind the counter one day so customers couldn’t see her and then announcing herself over the public address system as “Howard Johnson’s waitress of the week.”
“We had to wear these regulation uniforms that looked like they were from the last batch ever made in the ’30s: white cotton, puffy sleeves…,” Tomlin recalled. “All the other waitresses would turn their skirts into mini-skirts, but I kept it real, complete with big ol’ duty shoes and a paper hat. After I announced myself as waitress of the week, I came out and showed everyone how my uniform was regulation and everyone else’s wasn’t.”
Although Tomlin got some pretty big tips that night, she also got fired. But a star was truly born. Now, more than four decades later, Tomlin is arguably one of the most lauded female comics around, having won six Emmys, two Tony Awards, a Grammy, a CableAce Award, two Peabody Awards, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics’ Circle Award and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor—an award which Tomlin holds particularly near and dear to her heart. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her feature film debut in Robert Altman’s Nashville. While Tomlin has stayed busy in recent years with guest appearances on “Desperate Housewives” and “Damages,” she’s still probably best-known for her memorable cast of characters on “Laugh-In,” some of which, Tomlin said, will be appearing with her at The Orleans this weekend for “An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin.”
“I wouldn’t say The Tasteful Lady will show up, but Edith Ann’s always been a classic, and I don’t mind doing a character so long as the material is up to date and they have something to say,” Tomlin stated. “They have to be current. But yes, I always like to do multiple characters in the same scene. The nicest compliment anyone can say to me after a show is, ‘I didn’t know other people were going to be in the show, too!’”
While audiences truly get lost in the versatile comedienne’s performances, surprisingly Tomlin said she has always gotten recognized whenever she’s out in public in costume—even when she’s working on a new character.
“People have just always been so used to seeing me as different characters,” Tomlin explained. “I remember this one time I was working on (soul singer) Purvis Hawkins’ hair, this short afro, when I got a call to come look at an office. I simply put some sunglasses on and walked over, and the person was like, ‘Oh, hi, Lily.’ Then another time I was in Dallas in costume complete with this blonde wig and clothes I would never wear and I walked into this one place and the people were like, ‘Lily, what are you doing in town?’ I guess no one has any idea what I actually look like.”
Fans can soon see Tomlin sans the makeup and wigs, though, playing Lisa Kudrow’s mother in the “Friends” alum’s new series on Showtime, “Web Therapy.” She also recently shot a short film with “Modern Family’s” Jesse Tyler Ferguson that she hopes the two stars “made just as funny as it was on paper” (the short was written by Academy Award nominee Rob Festinger, who co-wrote In the Bedroom).
When asked what was left for her to accomplish given her list of impressive accolades, Tomlin said she’s always wanted to film some short films of her own with her younger brother of three years based on all the crazy adventures the two of them got into as kids.
“I remember when we were 17 and 14, we never had a car and our dad finally bought us this used car—a two-door Opel, nothing sharp,” Tomlin recalled. “Anyway, we ended up drinking some Geritol, as we thought it made old people lively, so we could stay up half the night and drive this car around. We ended up going to this party on the other side of town and, on our way home, noticed this car following us with its lights off. This was in Detroit, and it was late at night so nothing was open. We tried ditching the car but nothing we did could lose it. It was terrifying. Finally, we got home and we both just threw open the car doors and ran to the porch. Turns out somehow we had hooked an Isetta to the back of our bumper. We just fell down laughing.”
Being from Detroit, Tomlin said she’s also trying to promote a Walk of Fame highlighting the many celebrities who’ve come out of Motown to help the city “create an identity” for itself (Tomlin actually went to the same high school as Diana Ross). She’s also been busy with friend and former “Desperate Housewives” costar Kathryn Joosten (who plays Karen McCluskey on the hit ABC series) working on a TV spin-off involving their two characters (Tomlin plays Karen’s sister, Roberta Simonds).
“We’re actually kind of far along on it,” Tomlin said. “There seems to be a lot of interest.”
When asked if fans could expect Roberta’s return to Wisteria Lane anytime soon to promote the project, Tomlin said she doubted it, “although they do bring back a few people every now and then.”
“There was actually talk of bringing me back when Karen had a new boyfriend to come in and steal him away, but that didn’t happen,” she said.
For now, though, Tomlin’s focus is on the immediate future and her highly anticipated return to the Entertainment Capital of the World.
“I just want my next performance to be good,” she stated.
Given her history, Tomlin has nothing to worry about.
Lily Tomlin performs inside The Orleans Showroom Sat., June 18 and Sun., June 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at just $39.95, plus tax and convenience fees. To reserve your seats, call 702-365-7075 or simply click here.
For more on Lily Tomlin, visit her official Web site.