Comedy legend Carol Burnett doesn’t like to hear no, especially when it comes from a TV studio telling her not to be funny. “When I got my own show, CBS didn’t want me to do [a comedy review],” she recalled on May 19 as she received a Peabody Award in NYC. “They said, ‘No, no, no, Carol, no. Comedy is a man’s game! It’s Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin. It’s just not for you gals.’” But as Carol explained with an explosive “Ha!” she had a contract that let her “push that button” and choose the type of show she wanted todo. “Well, all I can say is, I am so happy I pushed that button!”
So are her legions of fans. And since The Carol Burnett Show premiered in 1967, she’s proven to be unstoppable. “I still go on the road and do my one-woman Q&A show,” Carol, 85, said. “I enjoy that because I never know what anyone is going to ask — it keeps the old gray matter ticking. You have to be on your toes!” She’s also currently hosting a new Netflix series, A Little Help With Carol Burnett, in which a panel of kids try to help solve adults’ problems. “They come up with such ideas,” Carol marveld. “They’re so smart!”
Carol on The Carol Burnett Show. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Taking on new projects in her 80s comes easy for Carol because, she insisted, “It doesn’t feel like work. If it did, I don’t think I’d want to do it.” Vicki Lawrence, 69, who co-starred with her on The Carol Burnett Show, agreed. “From Carol I really learned about how the business of show business should be run,” she told Closer Weekly. “You don’t really work with Carol, you play with her. If somebody did something funny on the show, Carol would be the first person standing on the side of the stage leading the laughter.”
Carol credits some of her success to her years on The Garry Moore Show back in the 60s, and she learned how to navigate the TV business from Lucille Ball. “She called me ‘kid,’” Carol recalled. “She never gave me advice, but I watched how she handled herself and handled everybody. She gave me a baby shower for my second baby!”
Still, Carol recognized how times have changed. “You couldn’t do [now] what we did back then,” she admitted. “If I were doing this today, they’d never let me hire Vicki,” whom Carol found after the 17-year-old wrote her a fan letter. “She was right out of high school, but the network let us take a chance.”
Decades later, Carol continues to enjoy making others laugh, especially the younger generation. “When we finished the [Netflix] series, [Caleb, one of the kids] gave me this thumb drive,” Carol shared. “On the screen comes Caleb at the piano playing my theme song. And he said, ‘This is for you, kid.’ And he played ‘I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.’” We know just how he feels.
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