Tracey Ullman returns this week in the new season of Larry David's cult comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, which premieres Sunday on HBO. It seems like a perfect gig for a woman who is, like David, a comedy icon with a lengthy and influential career to her name. Here's a reminder of some of the many ways she has smashed it out of the park.
1. She landed her own BBC sketch show in 1981 – a time when very few female comedians were given this opportunity.
Ullman starred opposite Lenny Henry in Three of a Kind, which ran for three seasons and won her a BAFTA award. She told The Face at the time that, after launching her career in musical theater, she was initially reluctant to move into comedy because "women in comedy are treated so shoddily. Big busty barmaids and all those clichés bore me rigid."
2. She had a brief but fun recording career in the 1980s.
Ullman managed to rack up five U.K. Top 40 singles in the space of a couple years, and even cracked the U.S. top ten with the girl-group pastiche "They Don't Know." Look out for a cameo from Paul McCartney in the video, which came about because she had a role in his 1984 musical movie Give My Regards to Broad Street.
3. Her career flourished after she emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1980s.
In 1987, she landed her own comedy variety show, The Tracey Ullman Show, which ran on Fox from 1987 to 1990. The show's Emmy success wasn't just a personal milestone for Ullman; they were the first ever Emmy nominations and wins for the Fox network, which had launched a year earlier.
4. She gave a platform to The Simpsons.
Yes, really! The iconic animated sitcom started out as a series of one-minute shorts that ran before and after commercial breaks on The Tracey Ullman Show. By 1989, the characters had grown so popular that they were spun off into their own series, The Simpsons.
5. She became a mainstay of HBO in the 1990s.
After the success of her 1993 special Tracey Ullman Takes on New York, Ullman made four seasons of Tracey Takes On... for the network. Each episode would see her mine humor from a different topic ranging from "family" and "romance" to "America" and "royalty." She collected another two Emmy awards for her pitch-perfect performances.
6. She won her seventh Emmy for her hilarious guest role in Ally McBeal.
Ullman appeared in five episodes of the 1990s dramedy as Dr. Tracey Clark, the title character's incredibly straight-talking therapist. The phrase "tough love" doesn't even begin to cover it.
7. She has also given great performances in movies.
Ullman is most associated with TV, but she's also appeared in around two dozen movies. Highlights include her BAFTA-nominated supporting role opposite Meryl Streep (who became a lifelong friend) in the powerful 1985 drama Plenty, and her Golden-Globe nominated performance in the 2001 Woody Allen crime flick Small Town Crooks. More recently, she appeared opposite Streep and James Corden in the musical comedy movie The Prom.
8. In 2016, she made her first series for the BBC in 30 years.
Tracey Ullman's Show and its topical follow-up series Tracey Breaks the News ran for a total of five seasons on BBC1. Highlights included Ullman's uncanny impression of Dame Judi Dench, which reimagines the actress as an unlikely badass who uses her "national treasure" status to get away with various misdemeanors.
9. She showed off her "straight" acting chops in last year's Mrs. America.
In this miniseries based on the 1970s political movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, Ullman plays feminist pioneer Betty Friedan. She picked up another Emmy nomination for her performance as the belligerent, respected, but rather alienated activist.
10. And finally, despite all her success, she's retained her sense of self-deprecation.
“My face is a good one for doing impersonations,” she said modestly in a 2016 interview with The Guardian. “I’ve got small eyes, a low brow, and a big head.”
Have you been a fan of Tracey Ullman over the years?