"I was nine when the twins Laraine and Paul were born," says award-winning comedy writer/turned songstress Tracy Newman, who's just released a CD, I Just See You. "I was like their mom. I just loved having these two kids I could push around in a stroller."
When Tracy was 30 and Laraine was 21, they became founding members of The Groundlings, an L.A. based comedy troupe. "I brought Laraine to the Groundlings where she was immediately discovered by Lorne Michaels who chose her for the first cast of Saturday Night Live. If we were both singer/songwriters and she got a big record deal, I'd probably want to kill her," Tracy says. But she wasn't jealous of her sister's success because Tracy was discovering her own path as a director, teacher and writer.
Tracy's career was no slouch. She went on to write for Cheers, co-created According to Jim, and won an Emmy for co-writing the famous coming-out episode of Ellen. Then, in her sixties, she began writing songs, performing with her band, The Reinforcements, and producing CDs.
As a singer, she was following her kid brother's footsteps. "Paul's story is the most interesting. When his father died, all of a sudden he was out there with a band and all this material. He'd been quietly getting it ready. Somehow, dad's death left him free to perform. It was like this new career jumped out of a box. An amazing band, spectacular material."
Throughout the years, the three siblings (a fourth, Steven, has a career in business) have moved in and out of each other's professional lives. "At the Groundlings, Laraine and I would sit with a tape recorder and I'd interview her in character to develop material. I worked with Jon Lovitz, Kathy Griffin and Lisa Kudrow as a teacher."
Now, Tracy says Paul occasionally asks for help on a song. "But he doesn't take my suggestions. I'm a stickler for grammar, even in songs. He doesn't care. I listen to him sing and realize nobody else cares either." Sometimes, they perform together. "Either he headlines or I headline, depending on the audience."
Despite working in the same field, at a rarefied level, competitiveness never got in the way of the siblings' relationships. "Laraine and I don't fight. She's my best friend. I don't hang out with her every day but I see or talk to her every week," Tracy says. The nine-year age difference, which felt like a chasm when they were kids, has disappeared. "When you join a group where everybody's passionate about the same thing, it doesn't matter how old anybody is. In the Groundlings, we were all pursuing being funny."
Tracy performs her songs before audiences, then puts the best stuff into her CDs. "There are five of my songs people have been trying to buy for three years: "Fire Up the Weed," "I Just See You," "Table Nine," and "The Carpool Song." They're all on my new CD," Tracy says. You can watch her perform them and get a taste for her folk-roots acoustic-guitar style.
Laraine sings backup some of her sister's albums, and Tracy plans to recruit Paul to sing on an upcoming CD for kids.
You get the sense there will be many collaborations to come. "If I didn't have my own career, I would direct a one-woman show with Laraine. I'd rather be around Laraine being funny than anything," Tracy says. "I'm so glad I have siblings."