Detroit's funniest daughter, Mary Jean Tomlin was featured on Merv Griffin when she was twenty-six and landed a spot on Laugh-In when she was thirty, creating the telephone operator Ernestine. Wanting to expand another character, Edith Ann, the bratty child in the big chair, Tomlin found the Peabody winning after school special writer Jane Wagner. They clicked. They've been life partners and collaborators for forty-one years. Compared to other longterm couples, say, Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews, their output has been phenomenal. Wagner wrote and directed Tomlin projects ranging from Grammy winning comedy albums and Emmy winning tv specials to hit movies (The Incredible Shrinking Woman) to super flops (Moment by Moment, co-starring John Travolta) to Tony-winning Broadway megahits (The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe). Beyond her endeavors with Wagner, Tomlin most frequently worked with Robert Altman (Nashville, Short Cuts, A Prairie Home Companion), and gave star performances in 9 to 5, All of Me, Big Business, and Flirting with Disaster. She's had recurring roles on many top television shows Murphy Brown, The West Wing, Will & Grace, Desperate Housewives, and Damages. In March 1977, when Time was still a news magazine, Tomlin was its cover story; Wagner is identified first as "a friend" but later the article says they share a house off the Sunset Strip. Tomlin co-produced and narrated The Celluloid Closet, an act many took as her coming out. She's a hysterical actress, of course, but is she also a little hysterical? Her meltdowns on the set of I Heart Huckabees are more than a little salty, yet minor compared to the tantrum thrown by the director. Remember, nothing is harder than comedy.
Also born today: Roger Casement, the gay Irish rebel hanged by the Brits in 1916 and subject of Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa's fine new novel The Dream of the Celt [Kindle]; Emma Stebbins, sculptor of the Central Park landmark Angel of the Waters, which you know as Bethesda Fountain, and girlfriend of actress Charlotte Cushman; and Dave King, author of the 2005 indie hit novel The Ha-Ha [Kindle] and husband of Franklin Tartaglione.