U.S. citizenship liberated Brit comic Tracey Ullman

Tue May 5, 2009 6:16pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Maybe only an outsider could mimic former first lady Laura Bush, Renee Zellweger and polygamous wives on American television and get away with it.

But British comedy transplant Tracey Ullman says it's been only since she became a U.S. citizen in 2006 that she has really felt free to lampoon American culture.

"It freed me psychologically," Ullman told Reuters. "I committed to living here and I got to understand the politics and the culture. You can't comment on a society unless you've lived it."

Some 20 years and seven Emmys after moving to Hollywood, Ullman is getting a lifetime achievement award Friday that reflects the American-English hybrid she says she has become.

The Los Angeles branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA/LA) is bestowing its first Charlie Chaplin award for comedy on the TV sketch creator of "Tracey Takes On..." and "Tracey Ullman's State of the Union."

BAFTA/LA credits Ullman, 49, with being a trailblazer for British personalities like "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell and Mark Burnett, creator of TV shows "The Apprentice" and "Survivor," forces to be reckoned with in Hollywood.

But British comedians -- especially women -- have had a harder time establishing themselves. Ullman, who also retains British citizenship, thinks that's less about the differences in British and U.S. humor (small) and more about the attitude of British newcomers.

"You can't just come over and think you can get up and say stuff and it will go down well. Sometimes people make mistakes by being too quick to make fun of the obvious things in America.   Continued...

<p>British actress Tracey Ullman poses during a photocall at the yearly MIPTV, the International Television Programs Market in Cannes, southeastern France, in this file photo from April 7, 2008. Ullman presented her film "State of the Union". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>