If anyone is deserving of honor and recognition for her accomplishments in television, it’s absolutely Carol Burnett, who just received the Golden Globes’ first special award in the category of TV Lifetime Achievement. Even more exciting? The award is named after her, which means that each year someone will be the recipient of The Carol Burnett Award.
Carol took to the stage on Sunday, Jan. 6 to accept her honor with a touching speech after actor Steve Carrell presented her with the award. “Steve Carrell… all I can say is, ‘He is as nice as he is talented. And I thank you so much.’ My thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — I am really gobsmacked by this. Does this mean I get to accept it every year? You know, my first love growing up was the movies. I’d see as many as six to eight films per week with my grandmother, who raised me. And then later, when I was a teenager, we got our first television set and then I had a new love. But regardless of the medium, what fascinated me was that the stars on the screen could make people laugh or cry or sometimes both. And I wished and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, someday, I could have the chance to do the same thing. Well, those childhood dreams came true,” she began.
“Sometimes on the big screen, but primarily on television, on a comedy variety show that, half a century later, still connects with people in a way that makes me very proud. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about being young again and doing it all over. And then I bring myself up short, when I realize how incredibly fortunate I was to be there at the right time. Because what we did then, it couldn’t be done today,” Carole continued. “The cost alone would be prohibitive. A 28-piece live orchestra, no synthesizers, 12 dancers, an average of 65 costumes a week… I’m so grateful for the chemistry [the cast] had together. And there was chemistry behind the cameras, too… we all became one happy family for 11 joy-filled years. And nothing like our show — and I might add, other variety shows at the time — would ever see the light of day today because the networks, they just wouldn’t spend the money. And because there are so many cable competitors, they’re not going to take a chance. And sad to say, today’s audiences might not even know what they’re missing. So here’s to reruns and YouTube,” Carol joked.
She continued, “But what has remained the same for every person who is lucky enough to be on television is the belief that we’ve been given an opportunity to do something special. We’ve been granted a gift — a canvas to paint with our talent, one that can make people laugh or cry or maybe do both. So this award — oh my gosh, so generously named after me — is dedicated to all those who made my dreams come true and to all those out there who share the love I have for television and the yearn to be part of this unique medium that has been so good to me. I’m just happy that our show happened when it did and I can look back and say once more, ‘I’m so glad we had this time together.’ Thank you.”
After it was announced that Carol would be receiving The Carol Burnett Award, Foreign Press President Meher Tatna said in a statement, “We are profoundly grateful for her contributions to the entertainment industry and honored to celebrate her legacy forever at the Golden Globes.”
In his book, The Carol Burnett Show Companion: So Glad We Had This Time Together, author Wesley Hyatt observes of the show’s enduring popularity, “Part of its favorable standing had to do with the titular star, who began each show coming across as warm and endearing, talking with members of her studio audience. Thereafter, Carol could and did indulge in mugging, belting, and dancing up a storm, along with occasional dramatic acting, to offer viewers a multidimensional performer who had few peers in entertainment, male or female. She made you think that being part of a comedy-variety series was the best fun you could have in the world, and her engaging presence won over even the most cynical of viewers.”
For her part, in the introduction of her memoir, In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox, Carol writes, “I recently had the extreme pleasure of receiving the Screen Actor’s Guild Life Achievement Award, and in accepting the honor, I talked about how much I loved going to the movies with my grandmother, Nanny, as a kid. My favorites were the comedies and the musicals. I think that’s when I fell in love with the idea of, someday, being a musical comedy performer. Since there wasn’t television ‘back in the covered wagon days,’ when I was growing up, I never imagined that my dream would be realized by having my own weekly musical comedy variety show on the small screen. But that’s exactly what happened.”
Adds Wesley, “Though her humor and approach often reminded people of Lucille Ball, four-time guest star Pat Carroll points out a crucial difference between the women. ‘Lucy could not step outside of herself,’ meaning Ball would have had a difficult time slipping in and out of character, plus introduce acts and do numbers the way Carol did. Simply put, Carol was one of a kind.”