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Elaine May      

Award- Winning Screenwriter, Film Director, Actress & Comedienne

Elaine May is a screenwriter, film director, actress, and comedienne. She made her initial impact in the 1950s from her improvisational comedy routines with Mike Nichols, performing as Nichols and May.

After studying acting with theater coach Maria Ouspenskaya in Los Angeles, she moved to Chicago in 1955 and became a founding member of the Compass Players, an improvisational theater group. May began working alongside Nichols, who was also in the group, and together they began writing and performing their own comedy sketches, which were enormously popular. In 1957 they both quit the group to form their own stage act, Nichols and May, in New York.

They performed nightly to mostly sold-out shows, in addition to making TV appearances and radio broadcasts. In their comedy act, they created satirical clichés and character types which made fun of the new intellectual, cultural, and social order that was just emerging at the time. In doing so, she was instrumental in removing the stereotype of women being unable to succeed at live comedy. Together, they became an inspiration to many younger comedians, including Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin. After four years, at the height of their fame, they decided to discontinue their act. May became a screenwriter and playwright, along with acting and directing.

For her acting, her accolades include a nomination for a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a musical or comedy for A New Leaf (1971), and winning the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Small Time Crooks (2000).

May was awarded the National Medal of Arts for her lifetime contributions by president Barack Obama, in a ceremony in the White House on July 10, 2013.

In January 2016, the Writer's Guild of America-West announced that May would receive its 2016 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement at the Writer's Guild of America award ceremony in Los Angeles on February 13.

In April 2019, May received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Gladys in The Waverly Gallery on Broadway. She also received a Drama League Nomination and Drama Desk Award nomination for the role. She won the 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award, Outstanding Actress in a Play.


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