Hollywood has always been focused on looks and other superficial markers of talent. When Carol Burnett burst onto the scene in the 1960s, many producers and executives didn’t think she had what it took to “make it” in Hollywood. That’s basically a nice way of saying they didn’t think she was “pretty” enough to be a star.
Carol remained true to who she was, despite men in the business saying she was “too loud” and had “too big” of a personality. It was those very characteristics that made her comedy stand out. She became the first woman to host a comedy variety show and paved the way for many female comics that came after her.
A “Man’s Game”
It seems outrageous to think about, but “The Carol Burnett Show” almost didn’t happen. When Carol proposed her variety show to CBS executives, they were not thrilled. Because she was a woman, the TV execs wanted her to star in a sitcom instead. According to them, the comedy variety show format was a “man’s game.”
Carol held her ground and didn’t back down. Her contract with CBS stemmed from her time on “The Garry Moore Show.” In that contract, the studio was required to give her thirty episodes of a one-hour show. Despite their misgivings, they legally had to go through with it. Boy, were their doubts wrong, right?
A Memorable Duet
The questions from the audience were usually pretty standard during Carol’s Q&A sessions. However, sometimes an audience member would throw her off. One of Carol’s most memorable Q&A moments was with a woman who requested to sing on stage with her.
The woman requested the band to play “You Made Me Love You” in the key of G. To everyone’s shock and delight, the woman started belting out a beautiful rendition of the song. Carol joined in to make it a duet, but the two women sang a different line at the end. The audience member signed off her performance by telling Carol, “You screwed it up!”
Carol Burnett’s Number One Fan
Vicki Lawrence was lucky enough to land a spot on “The Carol Burnett Show” after writing Carol a letter. Others were not as lucky. A 10-year-old Jim Carrey wrote a hopeful letter to Carol asking if he could be an actor on the show. Jim knew he wanted to be a comedian even at such a young age. He knew “The Carol Burnett Show” could be his big break.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the reply he wanted from Carol. The famous comedian replied to Jim’s letter: "At this time, we aren’t hiring children. Just grown-ups. But stay in school, study hard, and keep watching our show.” Jim and Carol did eventually work together for her “50th Anniversary Special” in 2017.
Vicki Lawrence’s Mentor
Carol Burnett hired Vicki Lawrence to be on her show right after she graduated high school. The young actress learned the ropes during her time on “The Carol Burnett Show,” and Carol took on the role of mentor. Thankfully, Carol was always on Vicki’s side and advocated for her a lot during the course of the show.
Carol Burnett looked out for Vicki Lawrence so much that it even upset some of the cast and crew of the show. One time a couple of writers stormed off set when Carol criticized them for not giving Vicki enough of the funny lines.