She was, in a word, lovely. Funny, warm, utterly charming and altogether genuine in her willingness to listen to an unabashed fan do pale imitations of her dead-on impersonations of famous names and everyday folks.
There's nothing quite as nice as meeting someone you've long admired and having that person exceed your expectations for how cool you hoped he or she would be off screen. That, in a nutshell, describes my breakfast with Tracey Ullman a few weeks ago at the Polo Lounge. Even the weather cooperated and allowed us to sit outside on the patio while chatting about her Showtime series "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union," why she took the Lee Greenwood oath and how she happened to grow into her particular comedy niche.
"Suddenly I thought after the last (presidential) election I'd really like to vote," Ullman said of her decision to become a U.S. citizen in December 2006 (she's a dual citizen of the U.S. and Britain). "You just know, somehow. A moment comes when you want to take that next step of becoming an America. So I started studying up."
She did very well on the exam, thank you, and the civics-lesson CD she was handed in preparation for her quiz gave her plenty of material to riff on for a show on her adopted homeland. (And she now does a great heartfelt rendition of Lee Greenwood's ballad "God Bless the U.S.A.") She's wrapped it all up in a mockumentary format spoofing the earnest PBS-style "Day in the Life of America" docus, with a dash of the vintage British radio program "Down Your Way" for good measure.
"I found the (citizenship) induction ceremony just amazing. There were 5,000 people downtown, and everyone's waving their flags, and they play that Lee Greenwood song to a film...that shows you wheat fields, monster trucks, the moon landing" and of course a big picture of a smiling President Bush, Ullman chuckles.
"I think it's given me a new voice. It's got me fired up more of what I want to say... I've got more confidence that now they won't take away my green card away if I say things like that," she says.