13 Things You Never Knew About The Carol Burnett Show
It's been 51 years since "The Carol Burnett Show" premiered on CBS but the sketch comedy show is as beloved as ever. With the series' namesake receiving the honor of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Golden Globes, it seems there's never been a better time to take a look at what made this iconic sketch comedy show tick.
The show felt live, but it wasn’t
The Carol Burnett Show feels like the perfect predecessor for Saturday Night Live (which began airing in 1975, eight years after Burnett and her cast of characters took the air), but unlike SNL, it wasn’t a live program. In fact, according to MeTV, the show taped twice in front of two different audiences with the separate takes edited together to create the final televised product. Nostalgic for TV from the past? Here are some classic shows you can find on Netflix.
And then there were two
The series made stars out of many of its cast members, but only two performers lasted all 11 seasons The Carol Burnett Show aired. Carol Burnett was, of course, one, and the other was Vicki Lawrence, who was just 18 years old when she joined the first season.
The show was an awards darling
Burnett may be receiving a big deal honor at the Golden Globes, but she’s certainly no newcomer to awards shows, and neither is The Carol Burnett Show itself. During its 11 season run, it garnered 70 Emmy Award nominations, according to CNN. Of those nominations, it took home 25 trophies.
One star turned down a spin-off
With so much success, the cast of The Carol Burnett Show had the world at their feet. But no big-time Hollywood offers appealed to them. Series star Tim Conway could have led a Mr. Tudball spin-off, according to Country Living. He declined because he didn’t see any longevity in the show.
The show’s Q&A segment was the idea of Burnett’s husband
To maintain the feel of a traditional comedy act, it was proposed that a stand-up comic kick off the show with a few jokes. Burnett’s husband worried that kind of opening might end up stealing the show. Instead, he suggested his wife field questions from the audience to kick off each episode and that’s how the segment was born, according to Mental Floss.
Burnett’s signature ear tug holds a sweet message
Fans of The Carol Burnett Show quickly picked up on the comedienne’s regular ear tug at the end of each episode. That small gesture was the thoughtful way she said hello to her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White, who raised her after her parents’ marriage ended.
The Q&A segment often terrified the cast
Yes, even seasoned performers get the jitters. And little terrified Vicki Lawrence as much as having to endure the Q&A segment with questions from the audience. “I used to be petrified going out during the questions and answers because you are on your own and have to wing it,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Vicki Lawrence landed on the show in an interesting way
Lawrence struck up a friendship with Burnett after writing her a fan letter while in high school. The Mama’s Family star had a similar hairstyle to Burnett back then and her friends frequently commented about how they looked alike. Much to Lawrence’s surprise, her older doppelganger showed up at the Miss Fireball pageant for which she was a contestant to show her support, later casting her on The Carol Burnett Show.
Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” dress has designer origins
“Went with the Wind” is one of the most legendary sketches from The Carol Burnett Show, with Burnett donning an over-the-top curtain dress meant as a send-up of the dress Scarlett O’Hara makes out of curtains in Gone with the Wind. The costume was created by iconic designer Bob Mackie. He donated it to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Burnett’s most embarrassing audience question ended up being one of the funniest
It would seem as though someone with Burnett’s sense of humor would rarely get embarrassed, but in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she recalls getting red-in-the-face during one particular Q&A session on the show. “When someone asked whether or not I had a sex change, and the very next question was, ‘Did you?'”
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.
Producers didn’t think Harvey Korman would join the show
As a regular on The Danny Kaye Show, producers of The Carol Burnett Show didn’t think Harvey Korman would agree to jump ship to join the cast of a fledgling series. It was Burnett herself who spotted him on the CBS studio lot and practically begged him to join her cast. As it turns out Korman was about to get his walking papers as The Danny Kaye show was being canceled, so, really, all anyone had to do was ask.
One celebrity guest got away
The Carol Burnett Show was famous for landing stellar guest stars, but one celebrity escaped their grasp. In her book, Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox, Burnett reveals she hoped Bette Davis would appear on the program, but it never happened. “We wanted Bette Davis and had a standard fee for all our guest stars, but she asked for too much money,” she remembers. “I wanted to pay her more but we couldn’t because everyone would have wanted more.” Next up, see if you can match these 46 quotes to their movie or TV show.