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Lily Tomlin's Favorite Flop

Back in the '60s, Lily Tomlin burst on the scene in the flower-powered series Laugh-In, where she created classic characters like the precocious Edith Ann and phone-operator-with-attitude Ernestine. But the quirky Tomlin has never been just a comedian. Her performance in Roger Altman's 1975 film Nashville made it clear she had more than sketch comedy on her mind. With I Heart Huckabees (out this week on DVD), Tomlin again shows off her crafty acting and takes on some serious existential questions. Here, the ex-hippie treats TVGuide.com to some groovy gossip. TVGuide.com: Huckabees looked fun to make. Had you and Dustin Hoffman worked together before?Lily Tomlin: No, but we came close one time, back when Robert Evans was producing Popeye. They wanted Dustin as Popeye and me as Olive Oyl, but that never happened. Dusti

Tim Williams

Back in the '60s, Lily Tomlin burst on the scene in the flower-powered series Laugh-In, where she created classic characters like the precocious Edith Ann and phone-operator-with-attitude Ernestine. But the quirky Tomlin has never been just a comedian. Her performance in Roger Altman's 1975 film Nashville made it clear she had more than sketch comedy on her mind. With I Heart Huckabees (out this week on DVD), Tomlin again shows off her crafty acting and takes on some serious existential questions. Here, the ex-hippie treats TVGuide.com to some groovy gossip.

TVGuide.com: Huckabees looked fun to make. Had you and Dustin Hoffman worked together before?
Lily Tomlin:
No, but we came close one time, back when Robert Evans was producing Popeye. They wanted Dustin as Popeye and me as Olive Oyl, but that never happened. Dustin is a real rascal and a very playful person. I thought I was going to be a little nervous or intimidated around him, but he doesn't let that happen.

TVG: What did you think of the rest of your costars, like Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg?
Tomlin:
I hate to go into how really nice everyone was — but they were! Actors are like kids playing, so why would someone want to be known as a jerk? I've been on sets where someone won't come out of their trailer, but that has to do with feelings of insecurity.

TVG: The film didn't do that well at the box office. Did that upset you?
Tomlin:
Well, [director] David O. Russell is a very original filmmaker and it's an extremely unusual film. I love it; I've seen it six times. I just hope more people see it on DVD. It's a real emotional and intellectual trip.

TVG: We've heard you're doing another film with your old pal, Robert Altman.
Tomlin:
I'm hoping that happens. It's based on the [National Public Radio] show A Prairie Home Companion, and I'm supposed to work with Meryl Streep, [whom] I know but have never [gotten] to work with.

TVG: Care to reminisce about your TV days on Laugh-In?
Tomlin:
You know, I thought Laugh-In was square and I chose to do another show called The Music Scene, but it lasted only half a season [on ABC in 1969]. We'd have concerts with Jimi Hendrix. It aired before a show called The New People, which was kind of like Lost, but parents were irate because these long-haired dopers were in prime time. So when it got canceled, I went to see [Laugh-In producer] George Schlatter and he immediately [cast] me.

TVG: Do you like it when fans come up and do impersonations of your Laugh-In characters?
Tomlin:
You mean when they say "one ringy-dingy"? I enjoy it — what could be a better connection with another human being than having the same sense of humor?