Lily Tomlin Quotes

Actress and Comedian (September 1, 1939 - )

Lily Tomlin 2016
Lily Tomlin 2016. Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Lily Tomlin, American comedian, actress, writer and producer, has won many awards in her long career. She was one of the stars of the 1960s Laugh-In and is known for her characters, including Ernestine the phone operator, and movies, including Nashville, 9 to 5 and All of Me.

Selected Lily Tomlin Quotations

• I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.

• Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pocket.

• Ninety eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.

• Exercise is for people who can’t handle drugs or alcohol.

• Truth is, I've always been selling out. The difference is that in the past, I looked like I had integrity because there were no buyers.

• I have always felt that humor was a wonderful vehicle to let us become connected with each other and ourselves… I try to portray the similarities and polarities in men and women, so that we can acknowledge and embrace our collective consciousness.

• I feel some part of me can wake up and be very existential and the next day wake up and be sort of in love with the universe.

• The larger picture is really to swing people's awareness of what really is moral.

9 to 5 made people aware of equal pay for equal work. It hasn't really happened, but it has come closer.

Lily Tomlin in Character

• There's so much plastic in this culture that vinyl leopard skin is becoming an endangered synthetic.

Jane Wagner

Some of Lily Tomlin's best known quotes are from the character she played in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, and are actually by playwright Jane Wagner.

• All my life, I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.

• Remember we're all in this alone.

• If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?

• No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.

• The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.

• It's my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.

• What is reality, anyway? Just a collective hunch.

• For fast acting relief, try slowing down.

• If evolution was worth its salt, it should've evolved something better than 'survival of the fittest.' I think a better idea would be 'survival of the wittiest.' At least, that way, creatures that didn't survive could've died laughing.

• Reality is a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs.

• The best mind-altering drug is the truth.

• If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?

• Sometimes I feel like a figment of my own imagination.

• Why is it when we talk to God, we're said to be praying - but when God talks to us, we're schizophrenic?

• If I had known what it would be like to have it all, I might have been willing to settle for less.

•Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.

• Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.

• Don't be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed.

• If the formula for water is H2O, is the formula for an ice cube H2O squared?

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Lily Tomlin Quotes." About Women's History. URL: . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Lily Tomlin Quotes." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2016, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2016, February 1). Lily Tomlin Quotes. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Lily Tomlin Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 17, 2017).