Lily Tomlin's humor is a victory of the comic spirit in a world closer to [Jonathan] Swift's than to [George] Meredith's, as her … one-woman show, "Appearing Nitely,"… makes clear. Before Tomlin appears onstage, a small female voice, tremulous but clear, seeps out through the house. "I am not afraid of anything," it sings in a nursery-rhyme sing-song, the suggestion being that it has considered the alternative. The world Tomlin sees has much in it to fear: the social condition is chaotic … and all of us are subject to dehumanization….
Tomlin's characters, both the new and the familiar, live in an isolated world, hardly ever rooted in a family or close friendships. The few who are in...
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