Lily Tomlin to be first out lesbian recipient of Kennedy Center Honors

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin Matt Sayles, Invision (AP)

Lily TomlinMatt Sayles, Invision (AP)

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin will be one of five recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, the national awards for influencing American culture through the arts.

Tomlin, 75, said she was astounded to learn she will receive the honors. The Detroit native originally went to college to study medicine.

“It was like a role I was playing for a couple of semesters,” she said. “I’ve been putting on shows since I was a little girl on the back porch … and always imitating the neighbors or imitating my mom and dad.”

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Shortly after moving to New York as a waitress, the budding comedian made her television debut on “The Garry Moore Show” in 1966 and within a few years joined the cast of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” with her popular characters of Ernestine, the telephone operator, and Edith Ann, a little girl. She would go on to produce comedy specials and premiered on Broadway in shows written by her partner of 43 years, Jane Wagner.

In the movies, Tomlin appeared in Robert Altman’s “Nashville” and “9 to 5” with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. On TV, she had roles in “Murphy Brown” and “The West Wing,” among others. Now she is working on a Netflix series, co-starring with Fonda in “Grace and Frankie.”

Tomlin will be the the first out lesbian recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

This year’s other recipients are singer Al, Green, actor Tom Hanks, musician Sting, and ballerina Patricia McBride. They will be saluted by top entertainers in a performance Dec. 7 and a reception at the White House. The show will be broadcast Dec. 30 on CBS.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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