Carol Burnett: As The TV Icon Turns 90, Paying Tribute to a Life of Laughter and Love (2023)

Bill Brioux | April 25th, 2023

Carol Burnett: As The TV Icon Turns 90, Paying Tribute to a Life of Laughter and Love (1)

Carol Burnett, in a promotional shot for 'The Carol Burnett Show.' The Hollywood legend turns 90 on April 26. Photo: Everett Collection/Canadian Press

As her theme song goes, viewers will be “so glad to have this time together” when NBC presents Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love — a two-hour special celebrating the television icon on her 90th birthday on Wednesday., April 26.

The beloved entertainer is, of course, best remembered for hostingThe Carol Burnett Show, a CBS comedy-variety hour that ran from 1967 to 1978.

For about half of that run, the series aired on Saturday nights and was part of one of the most impressive lineups in the history of broadcast television: Starting withAll in the Family at 8 p.m., followed byMASH,The Mary Tyler Moore Show,The Bob Newhart Showand ending withThe Carol Burnett Show.

Burnett opened each episode taking questions from the studio audience at CBS Television City Studios in Hollywood. One of the most popular requests was for Burnett to belt out her robust Tarzan yell.

At the end of all 279 episodes she would give a little tug on her ear a shout out and, later, an homage to the grandmother who helped raise herafter Burnett left Texas at an early age for Hollywood.

In between were dozens of memorable comedy sketches, performed with a troupe that usually consisted of Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and announcer Lyle Waggoner. Dick Van Dyke was part of the 11thand final season.

(Video) A look at Carol Burnett’s 90 years of laughter

Conway was famous for cracking up co-star Korman, especially during a famous sketch set in a dentist’s office.

Betty White, aCarol Burnett Showguest, appeared with Tim Conway at a 2007 press conference saluting “Pioneers of Television” in Los Angeles. She told TV critics that the “wonderful, spontaneous thing aboutThe Carol Burnett Show,” was that the ad-libs were purposely designed — mainly by Conway — to derail sketches. Conway would rehearse right up until showtime, “and then Tim would come out with either changing maybe a half word or an inflection or a piece of wardrobe, then maybe he would turn his tie over, nothing important, and it would put Harvey away.”

Conway said at that PBS press session that it was easier to ad-lib in an era when there was only one producer and maybe five writers.

The series also benefitted from the flamboyant costumes provided by designer Bob Mackie. It was his idea to add a curtain pole through the dress worn by Burnett in her famous send up of Gone with the Wind. When Burnett walked out onto the top of the staircase, the laugh was the longest in the series’ history.

The series also boasted a who’s who of guest stars, including frequent visitors Jim Nabors and Steve Lawrence to big names such as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis, Jr. and even The Jackson 5.

(Video) Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love (Make Sure To Check My Channel For The Full Special)

The guest list for the two-hour 90th birthday special is just as dazzling, with Vicki Lawrence and Mackie joining Cher, Ellen DeGeneres, Kristen Wiig, Lily Tomlin, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and many others. Bernadette Peters, Billy Porter, Jane Lynch, Katy Perry and Kristin Chenoweth will perform musical tributes.

A Star in the Making

Burnett already had a substantial career in television even before her landmark comedy-variety show began. Unlike Lucille Ball, who was a B-movie queen before hitting big on the small screen, Burnett was a TV baby, born and raised.

Back in the mid-‘50s when TV was mainly wrestling, westerns and puppet shows, Burnett landed a role onThe Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Showas the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy. That led to a short-lived stint as Buddy Hackett’s girlfriend on a sitcom calledStanley(1957-58).

She went viral, in a pre-internet way, with a novelty number titled, “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles.” (Dulles was a non-descript politician at the time.) In 1957, she performed the song on bothThe Tonight Showand onThe Ed Sullivan Show.

By 1959, she was performing on Broadway — and earning a Tony nomination — in Once Upon a Mattress. That same year, she became a regular player onThe Gary Moore Show. In 1962, she teamed with another fast-rising star — Julie Andrews — in “Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall.” (Andrews will be part of the 90th birthday salute.) The special was co-written by Mike Nichols and its success vaulted Burnett into a whole new level of TV stardom.

Burnett teamed later with Lucille Ball on a similar special. The two remained lifelong friends until the day Ball died in 1989 – on Burnett’s birthday.

CBS already had Burnett under contract when they asked her to star in a sitcom. The contract, however, stated that the network had to showcase her in a variety show first. That turned out to beThe Carol Burnett Show— and the rest is history.

(Video) Carol Burnett NBC Special Event: 90 Years of Laughter and Love (tonight, 8pm eastern/7pm central)

An Enduring Career

Later, Burnett made a few movies, co-starring with writer-director Alan Alda in The Four Seasons (1981) and the next year in John Huston’s Annie.

She returned to series television in 1983, rejoining former co-star Lawrence in theBurnett Showspin-offMama’s Family. Also featuring Ken Berry, it stumbled on NBC but thrived in syndication until 1990. During this time, she also appeared on one of her favourite soaps,All My Children.

Later roles included guest starring stints on Mad About You,Gleeand a brilliant turn as herself on HBO’sThe Larry Sanders Show. As recently as last year, she appeared in a pivotal four-episode arc on the final season of AMC’sBetter Call Saula show, she admitted to Jimmy Kimmel, that she was already a big fan of.

Along the way, Burnett has been awarded six Primetime Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, a Grammy Award, and seven Golden Globe Awards. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2013.

Part of her appeal was how she never lost sight of the impression movie stars made on her back when her grandmother took her to the local cinemas inLos Angeles. She told Johnny Carson on a late- ‘70sTonight Showappearance that she could barely speak after coming to Hollywood and meeting movie idols such as Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

In 2016, Vicky Lawrence shared some insight onher friend and mentor with reporters.

“When I was first onThe Carol Burnett Showand nobody really knew who I was. I used to run around in the parking lot on Friday nights and watch Carol and whoever the guest stars were come out of the studio because they always used to go to Chasen’s for dinner afterwards.”

(Video) Behind Carol Burnett’s elegant and hilarious ‘90 Years of Laughter + Love.

Lawrence noted that movie stars entering the restaurant would hear shouts such as, “Ms. Swanson” or “Ms. Hayworth.” If it were a TV star, however, the greeting would be, “Hi Carol!” or “Hi Lucy!”

Lawrence asked Burnett why fans reacted in different ways to TV stars.

“Sweetie,” Burnett said to Lawrence, “they go to bed at night and have a beer and watch you between their toes, and they need to love you on a first name basis.”

Burnett understood her connection to her fans. It was why she always took questions before each show. It also explains why — even into her 90s — she never wore out her welcome on television.

Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love airs on NBC on Wednesday, April 26 at 8 p.m. ET and will stream on Peacock the following day.


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Why was The Carol Burnett Show so popular? ›

It was the kind of show that could reach all generations — parents snickered at the naughty asides, kids laughed at Burnett's slapstick and everyone appreciated the splashy musical numbers at the close of each episode.

What TV show did Carol Burnett first appear on? ›

Background. By 1967, Carol Burnett had been a popular veteran of television for 12 years, having made her first appearances in 1955 on The Paul Winchell Show and the sitcom Stanley starring the comedian Buddy Hackett. In 1959, she became a regular supporting cast member on the CBS-TV variety series The Garry Moore Show ...

How much money did Carol Burnett have? ›

Carol has an estimated net worth of $45 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. The Texas native is perhaps best known for her work in the variety series The Carol Burnett Show, which ran from 1967 to 1978.

Did Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence get along? ›

In looking back at her decades-long friendship with Burnett, Lawrence says she often put the comedian on a pedestal. “​​I was a kid. I was a teenager. These people were married, they had children.

What is Carol Burnett best known for? ›

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer. Her groundbreaking comedy variety show The Carol Burnett Show, which originally aired on CBS, was one of the first to be hosted by a woman.

What is Burnett known for? ›

Carol Burnett, in full Carol Creighton Burnett, (born April 26, 1933, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.), American comedian and actress who starred in a long-running eponymous television variety show in the 1960s and '70s.

When was The Carol Burnett Show popular? ›

The Carol Burnett Show aired for 11 seasons (1967–78) on CBS and was a staple of the network's Saturday-night lineup for most of that period.

Why did Carol Burnett show end? ›

"The only time I'd embraced the idea of stopping [The Carol Burnett Show] was during our fifth season," Burnett confessed. "Our writers weren't coming up with sketches that Harvey Korman and I found challenging to do, and we both felt we were starting to outgrow the show's material

When did Carol Burnett become famous? ›

Carol Burnett Becomes a Comedy Star

In 1957, Burnett solidified her status as a comedienne with her hit parody number swooning over America's then-Secretary of State. She performed "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles" on major TV programs like The Ed Sullivan Show (pictured).

Who owns the rights to The Carol Burnett Show? ›

CBS Acquires Rights to The Carol Burnett Show As the Show Celebrates 50 Years. Most of these episodes have never been seen beyond their original broadcast. It's been 50 years since The Carol Burnett Show first aired on September 11, 1967.

What is a fact about Carol Burnett? ›

Other Facts

Burnett has earned 23 Emmy Award nominations and won six Emmy Awards, plus one honorary award. She has received three Grammy nominations and has won one. She has been nominated for two Tony Awards and was a recipient of a 1969 Special Award (along with Leonard Bernstein and Rex Harrison).

Who gave Carol Burnett the money? ›

A businessman and his wife approached Burnett, and after learning of her difficulties, he offered both her and her future husband, actor Don Saroyan, $1,000 loan to make the cross-country trek to New York City.

Are Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett good friends? ›

BFFs Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews First Met 60 Years Ago—and It's the Best Story. The two icons' friendship has a legendary origin story. The legendary Carol Burnett has had an equally-iconic best friend for more than a whopping six decades now.

What was the age difference between Vicki and Carol Burnett? ›

With Lawrence portraying the character of a cold, unaffectionate, widowed elderly mother to the neurotic, misfortunate Eunice (played by Burnett despite Lawrence being 16 years younger), The Family bred some of The Carol Burnett Show's most famed blooper moments.

Were Carol Burnett and Tim Conway friends? ›

Conway appeared as a guest during that first Burnett season and the two men immediately became friends starting a lifetime of working together until Korman's death in 2008.

Who was the handsome actor on The Carol Burnett Show? ›

Lyle Wesley Waggoner (/ˈwæɡnər/ WAG-nər; April 13, 1935 – March 17, 2020) was an American actor, sculptor, presenter, travel trailer salesman and model, known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show from 1967 to 1974 and for playing the role of Steve Trevor and Steve Trevor Jr.

Was Carol Burnett in Better Call Saul? ›

Carol Burnett almost met an untimely end on Better Call Saul. Burnett, who joined the sixth and final season of the AMC series as Marion, the mother of a cab driver who Saul (Bob Odenkirk) develops a complicated relationship with in his attempt to run a scam.

Who were the main characters on Carol Burnett? ›

What does the name Burnett mean? ›

Burnett is a Scottish surname. It is derived from a nickname from the Old French burnete, brunette, which is a diminutive of brun meaning "brown", "dark brown". Another proposed origin of the name is from burnete, a high quality wool cloth originally dyed to a dark brown colour.

What was the best Tim Conway Carol Burnett? ›

The Elephant Story

The elephant story could also be argued as the most memorable Tim Conway sketch from The Carol Burnett Show.

How old was Carol Burnett when her show was on TV? ›

Carol's first big TV breaks came at age 22 and 23 as a foil to a ventriloquist's dummy on the already-established The Paul Winchell Show (1950) in 1955, and as Buddy Hackett's gawky girlfriend on the short-lived sitcom Stanley (1956).

What was the format of The Carol Burnett Show? ›

Carol Burnett, which aired for 11 seasons (1967–78) on CBS. The show followed a simple format of weekly guest stars, sketch comedy, movie and TV parodies, and musical numbers. What set it apart was how off-the-wall the cast and writers would take things.

Where can I watch Carol Burnett for free? ›

You are able to stream The Carol Burnett Show for free on Crackle, Plex, Pluto, and Tubi.

What was the spin off of The Carol Burnett Show? ›

How did the last episode of The Carol Burnett Show end? ›

In the final moments of the show, Burnett, as the Charwoman, is backstage and waves goodbye to the show's staff and celebrities from the audience as they silently walk by to wish her farewell.

Who did Carol Burnett kiss at the end of the show? ›

In the final moments of the show, Carol, as the charwoman, sits backstage and watches the credits of the final episode on a small TV. She turns off the set and waves goodbye to the show's staff and some of the cast as they silently walk by. Harvey Korman, who was appearing as a guest, stops and gives her a kiss.

What is Carol Burnett doing now? ›

Carol Burnett turns 90 today, but she's got the career of a performer in her prime. Later this year, she'll portray a high-society matron opposite Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, and Allison Janney in the Apple TV+ dark comedy series Palm Royale.

How did Carol Burnett start out? ›

Burnett started her career in New York. After becoming a hit on Broadway, she debuted on television. After successful appearances on The Garry Moore Show, Carol moved to Los Angeles and began an eleven-year run on The Carol Burnett Show which was aired on CBS television from 1967 to 1978.

What season was Carol Burnett went with the wind? ›

"Went with the Wind!" is a comedy sketch featured on the eighth episode of the tenth season of The Carol Burnett Show. It originally aired in the United States on CBS on November 13, 1976, and is a parody of the 1939 American historical drama film Gone with the Wind.

Who played the oldest man The Carol Burnett Show? ›

The Carol Burnett Show (OFFICIAL)'s. post

a truly timeless comedy. Enjoy this full, free episode! The Oldest Man (Tim Conway) trying to sell a pair o...

Did The Carol Burnett Show have a live audience? ›

The countless interactions between comedy standout Carol Burnett and her live studio audience became a staple of The Carol Burnett Show.

Was The Carol Burnett Show an hour long? ›

It debuted in 1967 as an hour-long show. When it was edited to half-hour episodes and re-released for syndication in 1977, only seasons 6-11 were found.

Was The Carol Burnett Show filmed before a live audience? ›

First broadcast on CBS on Sept. 11, 1967, The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons before concluding with a two-hour finale on March 29, 1978. Each televised show was edited together from two performances in front of a live audience.

How many children did Carol Burnett lose? ›

Annie star Carol Burnett was on top of the world when she welcomed her three kids — Jodie, Erin and Carrie — into her life. However, everything soon changed for the actress when her firstborn daughter died from pneumonia following a complication with lung cancer in 2002 at age 38.

Were Betty White and Carol Burnett friends? ›

Like Vicki Lawerence, Lucille Ball, and Bea Arthur, Betty White was also friends with famous comedian Carol Burnett, whose famous sketch comedy show The Carol Burnett Show launched the careers of many comedy icons.

Who paid for Carol Burnett to go to college? ›

Although the University of California system offered extremely low tuition to in-state students, Carol could not afford to enroll at UCLA until an anonymous donor supplied her with the $50 she needed. In a college theater arts class, she discovered the joys of performing for a live audience.

What movie did Elizabeth Montgomery and Carol Burnett make together? ›

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? is a 1963 American comedy film directed by Daniel Mann and starring Dean Martin, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Carol Burnett.

Who is Julie best friend? ›

Flynn Taylor is a deuteragonist in Julie and the Phantoms. Flynn is Julie's best friend and is one of the few people that knows the truth about the Phantoms.

How can I watch Carol Burnett's 90th birthday special? ›

How to Watch Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love. Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love airs on her 90th birthday—Wednesday, April 26—at 8/7c on NBC and stream the next day on Peacock.

How many times did Carol Burnett get married? ›

Burnett first found fame on Broadway and went on to become a tv star in her groundbreaking series, The Carol Burnett Show, as well as a film star with such movies as Annie and Noises Off. She's been married three times; her first husband was her college sweetheart Don Saroyan, whom she was married to from 1955 to 1962.

How long was Carol Burnett married to Joe Hamilton? ›

Prior to her relationship with Miller, Burnett was married to actor Don Saroyan from 1955 to 1962 and to the later television producer Joe Hamilton from 1963 to 1984.

Did Vicki Lawrence and Carol Burnett like each other? ›

There is no denying the friendship between Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence. It's a friendship most aspire to have, but it's also a friendship that started in one of the most unique ways possible.

What did Vicki Lawrence say to Tim Conway? ›

Conway already has most of the cast, including Carol Burnett, cracking up, but Vicki Lawrence delivers the final punch. Without breaking character, Lawrence says "Are you sure that little [expletive]'s through?" which sends both Conway and Dick Van Dyke rolling on the floor with laughter.

Does Tim Conway have dementia? ›

Tim Conway is reportedly battling dementia as his family fights over the “Carol Burnett Show” star's medical treatment. According to court documents first obtained by The Blast and later confirmed by People magazine, the 84-year-old actor is “almost entirely unresponsive.”

How popular was The Carol Burnett Show? ›

It was never a top 10 show

It's hard to believe but The Carol Burnett Show never broke the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings. At its peak, the series landed at No. 13 during its 1969-1970 season. It did enjoy a slot in the top 20 during nine of its 11 seasons.

What is the best skit from The Carol Burnett Show? ›

The Elephant Story

The elephant story could also be argued as the most memorable Tim Conway sketch from The Carol Burnett Show.

Where can I watch Carol Burnett show? ›

How to Watch The Carol Burnett Show. Right now you can watch The Carol Burnett Show on Peacock or fuboTV. You are able to stream The Carol Burnett Show by renting or purchasing on Amazon Instant Video. You are able to stream The Carol Burnett Show for free on Pluto, Plex, Crackle, and Tubi.

What episode of The Carol Burnett Show is the Elephant Story? ›

The Carol Burnett Show: Season 11: Episode 7.

Are Cher and Carol Burnett friends? ›

Comedy legend Carol Burnett is ready for an evening of celebration with her all-star friends including Steve Carell, Cher, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Katy Perry and many more.

Who was the first guest on the Carol Burnett Show? ›

Storyline. Carol's series premiere guest is Jim Nabors. Highlights of this inaugural edition include: a "V.I.P." interview with Shirley Dimple; Jim and Carol as two misfit skiers in "The Ski Lodge"; the first "Carol and Sis" sketch; and a Broadway medley.

Are Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews friends? ›

BFFs Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews First Met 60 Years Ago—and It's the Best Story. The two icons' friendship has a legendary origin story. The legendary Carol Burnett has had an equally-iconic best friend for more than a whopping six decades now.


1. Carol Burnett Show outtakes - Tim Conway's Elephant Story
(The Carol Burnett Show Official)
2. Best of Vicki Lawrence on The Carol Burnett Show!
(The Carol Burnett Show Official)
3. Carol Burnett Lost Episodes Signed Edition Announcement
(The Carol Burnett Show Official)
4. The Infamous Scene That Took 'bewitched' off Air
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5. 🥪 👜 Ma’amalade sandwich Your Majesty?
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6. Carol Burnett Reflects on 'Went With the Wind'
(Associated Press)
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