SAG Awards: Lily Tomlin Gives Advice-Filled Lifetime Achievement Award Speech
Backstage, she drew parallels between Donald Trump's decisions and those of Nazis: "We need to be vigilant and stop certain behaviors so that someone who has not thought something through doesn't get too far in the process."
Lily Tomlin delivered a comical, advice-filled speech — that occasionally included punch lines referencing President Donald Trump — while receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAG Awards on Sunday night.
"The doomsday clock has been moved to two minutes before midnight! And this award came just in the nick of time," the actress and activist joked during her acceptance. "Ironically, this award makes you feel not that you've done so much, but that you wish you had done so much more.
"In my defense, I wasted a lot of time being ambitious about the wrong things," the actress continued, recalling how she nearly didn't graduate high school due to poor attendance. "I would literally stay out 12 or 13 days in a row if my hair didn't turn out right!"
She continued: "After 50 years in the business, I find young actors are asking me for sage advice. Along with telling them to wear sunscreen, i suggest a few things you may find helpful. Don't leave the house when you're drunk. And if you're 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," Tomlin joked, adding, "Meryl [Streep] is laughing at this, and there's absolutely no time she's had a failure."
She continued: "Live your life so that when you are being honored for your achievements, the people called upon to make laudatory comments can feel reasonably honest about their comments. Otherwise, in these times, all their words of phrase might be perceived as 'alternative facts,' or worst yet, 'fake news,'" she said, using Trump's terms.
"I feel like I'm just getting started," she concluded. "What sign should I make for the next march? Global warming, Standing Rock, LGBT issues, Chinese missiles. ... There's lots to do. ... We can all go out and really change things, and as long as i don't have to audition, I just may be back."
When asked backstage about the evening's numerous political acceptance speeches, Tomlin told reporters, "If you can’t be a little entertaining at the same time, it probably falls on deaf ears. So many people are activists now and understand how to express themselves and use this platform. Stars that people really have affection for does land home."
"Any activist should really be talking about how to mount some kind of legislation against whatever it is that they are opposed to," she continued. “You’ve got to change the laws, just like Trump is changing the laws now. He’s trying to change the laws now. ... I don’t want to make this comparison, and I’m not making it in any way, but the Nazis, they changed the laws if they didn’t agree with them. They just changed them and they could do whatever they wanted.”
"That was over a period of time, so we need to be vigilant and stop certain behaviors so that someone who has not thought something through doesn't get too far in the process," she urged. "If they get too far, they might believe it themselves that it's true and it should be pursued. We need to be vigilant and we need to agree when he may have a good idea or she may have a good idea, and we should be resistant when they don’t."
"Oh my gosh, I feel like I’m talking to someplace in Germany many decades ago," she added.
Tomlin's 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton presented the honor to the Grace and Frankie actress, who also was nominated for best actress in a TV comedy. She is the first SAG Lifetime Achievement Award recipient to also compete in a category.
"Lily is receiving an award I've spent my whole life trying to avoid — 'sag' award?" joked Parton, who was initially set to present the award alongside Jane Fonda, who was unable to attend the ceremony. Of Tomlin, Parton also said, "She goes right up to the line and then she just races right over it, and that's why actors and audiences love her."
The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles. The ceremony aired live on TNT and TBS.