Acceptance Speech by Lily Tomlin at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
January 29, 2017
Thank you all, wow. Well, thank you all. Thank you all so much. How can I possibly express myself after Dolly and now you guys. I mean, it’s – what a week this has been, though. And so you are kind of anticlimactic. Didn’t you hear the booms day talk is moved up to two-and-a-half minutes before midnight. I…I…And this award, it came just in the nick of time.
When the great Ruth Gordon received an Oscar for the first time at 72, she said, “I can’t tell you how encouraging a thing like this could be.” Wait a minute, I just realized I’m older than Ruth Gordon was at that point, but it is an honor to receive – it is inspiring, really, to receive an award like this. Oh, I didn’t even realize the sadness was on the other side. I’ve been close to this many times. It’s amazing. I think you should have...
Ironically, ironically, this award makes you feel like you’ve – not that you’ve done so much, but more like you wish you had done so much more to receive an honor such as this.
In my defense, I wasted a lot of time being ambitious about the wrong things. When I recall my youth, I can’t even point to a time when I showed promise to be anything but trouble. When I was a senior in high school, my counselor called me into his office to tell me that they were thinking of holding back my diploma. I said, “Gee, whiz, Mr. Daniels, why would you do something like that?”
Turns out I had been a student for 4 years, but I had been absent one. Cumulatively, I had been absent one year. I would literally stay out 12, 13 days in a row if my hair didn’t turn out right. And those of you from that era know what I mean because hair was really important. But somehow, I learned to turn my – my flaws into spiritual lessons. I must say watching “Oprah” really helped.
And now, after 50 years in the business, I find young actors are asking me for sage advice, hoping for, you know, kind of nuggets of wisdom. So along with telling them to wear sunscreen, I suggest a few other things I think you may find helpful.
Don’t leave the house when you are drunk. And if you are already out there, well, you must learn to tell when you’ve had too much to drink. Listen to your friends. When they stop talking to you and start talking about you, saying things like, “Did she have a purse?” And don’t be anxious about missing an opportunity. Behind every failure is an opportunity someone wishes they had missed.
Meryl is laughing at this, and there’s absolutely no time she’s had a failure. And mind what Thoreau said, “Beware of any enterprise which requires new clothing.”
Doesn’t that ring sort of true tonight? To a few of you? Does to me.
Live your life so that when you are being honored for your achievements, the people called upon to make laudatory remarks can feel reasonably honest about their comments. Otherwise, all – in these times, all their words or of phrase might be perceived as alternative facts or, worse yet, fake news.
Finally, thank those people on whose shoulders you stand. My partner, writer Jane Wagner, is the one on whose shoulders I stand the tallest.
There are so many people, more people to thank for helping me with my achievements than I actually have achievements. Tonight, I’m going to go home. I’m going to make a really big entry into my gratitude journal. Thank you, thank you, all of you.
Ruth Gordon was right when she said how encouraging a thing like this is. I feel like I’m just getting started. What sign should I make for the next march? So much to do; global warming, standing rock, LBGT issues, Chinese missiles, immigration.
Thank you. Thank you to the Screen Actors Guild and to SAG-AFTRA. I’m just really grateful. I’m so glad this speech is almost over.
And, you know, we could all go out and, like, really change things. And in fact, I feel like I feel – as long as I don’t have to audition, I just may be back.
Thank you all.