​Becoming Lily Tomlin


The comedian and star of the new dramedy "Grandma" honed her observational skills for her menagerie of strange and wonderful oddballs in her youth.

CBS News

Lily Tomlin's gift for comedy is a gift she isn't at all sure she has. Lee Cowan has our Sunday Profile:

Cowan asked Lily Tomlin, "Do you think you're naturally funny?"

"Kind of, not terribly funny."

"You don't think so, really?"

"No, I mean I think I'm somewhat funny."

"So, if you think you're only sorta kinda funny, what do you think your real talent is?"

"Not much."

"Not much? Come on!"

"I guess -- I know, I mean, you're right. That's a good question. Because if I'm not funny, what IS my talent?"

Maybe the reason Lily Tomlin has such a hard time summing up her talent is because there's just so much of it. For more than half a century she's not only made people laugh, she's made people think, too.

"One thing that I have no worry about is whether God exists. It has occurred to me that God has Alzheimer's and has forgotten we exist."

Tomlin IS a national treasure, celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2014. If there's any doubt just how funny she is, just ask President Obama; whatever she whispered in his ear that night gave him a case of the Presidential giggles.

Cowan asked, "What did you say to him that cracked him up so much? Do you remember?"

"Well, you know, if I revealed it to you, it could throw the election!" she laughed.

She has so many awards, she can be forgiven if a few of them are a little worse for the wear, including her 1971 Grammy for Best Comedy Recording.

"My Grammy broke," she said. "They're not going to like that when they see this. It has to be soldered back on."

Lily Tomlin's awards, a little worse for wear. CBS News

Her Tony Awards weren't in the best shape, either. ("I will fix them up for the next time I see you.")

Only thing missing is an Oscar, but perhaps not for long. At age 76, Tomlin's performance in the dramedy "Grandma" is getting some of the best reviews of her career.

Tomlin plays a grouchy lesbian poet who spends one eventful day wheeling around in an old car, trying to come up with enough cash to pay for her granddaughter's abortion.

Doesn't sound too funny, but it is.

She says she felt right at home in the role; in fact, she wore her own clothes. And that unwieldy '55 Dodge? Well, that's hers, too. "I just have to remember to press down hard on the brake," she explained.