Lily Tomilin was Laugh In's beloved operator Ernistine who would call out One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingy and “Is this the party to whom I am speaking”. As the operator she treated the customers with little sympathy and was condescending to whom she was speaking to while at her switchboard. Her hair was in a forties hair style and used a nasally voice. She would often refer to her friend, another operator Phoenica or her boyfriend Vito who was a telephone repairman.
In 1972 Lily Tomlin released a comedy album that featured encounters with customers on the phone. The album, her first topped the Billboard album hit at the number fifteen spot and she won a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording a really big One Ringy Dingy there! She then released And That's The Truth which was based on her monologues as Edith Ann. That album reached number 41 on the Billboard charts and won her another Grammy nomination.
Tomlin was offered $500,000 to play Ernistine for AT&T in a commercial but she turned it down saying it would compromise her artistic style, a One Ringy, NO Ringy Dingy . She did do a parody in 1976 on Saturday Night Live in a Ma Bell advertisement where she said “We don't care, we don't have to...we're the phone company”. I'm sure many felt that way about the phone company.
In her role as Ernistine it was suggested she dial the phone with her middle finger and sometimes “flipping the bird” to the camera but the censors never caught on.
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, simply known as Laugh-In was a sketch and often a rapid fire comedy show which ran from January of 1968 to March of 1973 on NBC. The show was suppose to be a one time special which aired September 9, 1967. Tomlin was not in the pilot, she joined the cast in season three in 1969. The special was such a big hit it was brought back replacing The Man From U.N.C.L.E on Mondays at 8pm. TV Guide Magazine rate Laugh-In number 42 of it's 50 Greatest TV Shows Of All Time.
Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn became noted films stars after Laugh-In was canceled. Tomlin was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Nashville in 1975.