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Tracey Ullman on State of the Union

Published January 20, 2009 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of Showtime
State of the Union State of the Union
Tracey Ullman is about to shoot another season of her Showtime sketch show Tracey Ullman's State of the Union. She'll be traveling around the states to sample the variety of people, perhaps find some comic inspiration.

Tracey Ullman's State of the Union


"I’ve been to lots of places," she said. "I remember saying to FOX years ago that I wanted to go to Toledo, Ohio, I don’t want to just get LA and New York. Yeah, there are big differences. I just like that there are good people everywhere. There are funny people. When I went around the country I would take Polaroids of people and keep them in books. How friendly everyone is? I like small TV stuff. Mind you I do see it as somebody who is going there that people know. To do the whole anonymous thing, to drive across America and be unknown, my voice gives me away. People don’t know what I look like but when they hear my voice. When I went to Baltimore they go, ‘Are you one of them wizards in Harry Potter?"

Despite her seemingly endless array of impressions, there are some limits to Ullman's skills of impersonation. One American dialect stymies her. "Cajun. New Orleans. It’s a really weird accent. It’s that Bayou thing and Creole. It’s a mixture of a French thing. There is an equivalent accent to that in England. It’s the Newcastle accent. That’s really hard. I’d love to be able to do that."

Sometimes, Ullman has so many different characters lined up for a performance, even she gets mixed up. "Yeah, sometimes I get really tired and the wrong voice comes out of the wrong face. I tried to be Tony Sirico at the end of a very long day recently. I just was really so tired. Then someone gave me this goji berry drink. They said it was a goji berry drink, all I knew is suddenly I was Tony Sirico. You have these make-ups on for 15 hours and you get no oxygen to your brain. You are pushing you luck."



One of her most recent impressions was Renee Zellweger. "I think it was very positive. I wasn’t being mean to her. She did say that I looked like her twin brother in drag. She’s got a sense of humor about it."

Ullman's husband, Allan McKoewn, produces the show for her. "It really makes it very easy for me because he cares about it as much as me. He really is a brilliant producer. I met him 27 years ago because he was a producer. He can organize all that side of the stuff, agents, managers, and anything. He does the business."

Look for more State of the Union later this year on Showtime.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Showtime
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