Carol Burnett: Wikis


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Carol Burnett

at the White House in 2005
Born Carol Creighton Burnett
April 26, 1933 (1933-04-26) (age 76)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedienne, singer, writer
Years active 1955—present
Spouse(s) Don Saroyan (1955–1962)
Joe Hamilton (1963–1984)
Brian Miller (2001–present)

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedienne, singer, dancer and writer. 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 The Carol Burnett Show which was aired on CBS television from 1967 to 1978. With roots in vaudeville, The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show combining comedy sketches, song, and dance. The comedy sketches ranged from movie parodies to character pieces which featured the many talents of Burnett herself who created and played several well-known and distinctive characters.


Early life

Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas, the daughter of Ina Louise (née Creighton), a publicity writer for movie studios, and Joseph Thomas Burnett, a movie theater manager.[1][2] Both of her parents, particularly her father, suffered from alcoholism, and at a young age she was left with her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White. Her parents divorced in the late 1930s, and Burnett and her grandmother moved to an apartment near her mother’s in an impoverished area of Hollywood, California. There, they stayed in a boarding house with her younger half-sister Chrissy.[3]

When Burnett was in the fourth grade she created for a short time an imaginary twin sister named Karen, with Shirley Temple-like dimples. Motivated to further the pretense Burnett recalled fondly that she "fooled the other boarders in the rooming house where we lived by frantically switching clothes and dashing in and out of the house by the fire escape and the front door. Then I became exhausted and Karen mysteriously vanished."[4]

For a while, she worked as an usherette at what is now the Hollywood Pacific Theatre (the forecourt of which is now the location of her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; see the section in the theatre's article for more information). After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Burnett won a scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles where she initially planned on studying journalism. During her first year of college, Burnett switched her focus to theater arts and English, with the goal of becoming a playwright. She found she had to take an acting course to enter the playwright program; "I wasn't really ready to do the acting thing, but I had no choice."[5] She followed a sudden impulse in her first performance; "Don't ask me why, but when we were in front of the audience, I suddenly decided I was going to stretch out all my words and my first line came out 'I'm baaaaaaaack!'"[5] The audience response moved her deeply:

They laughed and it felt great. All of a sudden, after so much coldness and emptiness in my life, I knew the sensation of all that warmth wrapping around me. I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you'll hear a laugh that great again.[5]

During this time, Burnett performed in several university productions, garnering recognition for her comedic and musical abilities. Her mother disapproved of her acting ambitions:

She wanted me to be a writer. She said you can always write, no matter what you look like. When I was growing up she told me to be a little lady, and a couple of times I got a whack for crossing my eyes or making funny faces. Of course, she never, I never, dreamed I would ever perform.[4]

The young Burnett, always insecure about her looks, wrote in her 1986 memoir One More Time about her private reaction to her mother's advice of "You can always write, no matter what you look like." Although the remark was well intentioned, Burnett wrote: "God, that hurt!"

In 1954, during her junior year, a professor invited Burnett and some other students to perform at a black-tie party. A man and his wife approached her afterwards, as she was putting hors d'oeuvres in her purse to take home to her grandmother.[6] Instead of reprimanding her, the man complimented Burnett's performance and asked about her future plans. When he discovered that she wanted to go try her luck with musical comedy in New York, but did not have enough money, he offered her a $1000 interest-free loan on the spot.[6] The conditions were that it was to be paid back in five years, his name was never to be revealed, and if she became a success, she would help others attain their dreams.[6] Burnett took him up on his offer. She and her boyfriend, Don Saroyan, left college and moved to New York to pursue acting careers. That same year, Burnett's father died of causes related to his alcoholism.


Early career

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom, Stanley, from 1956 to 1957.

After Stanley, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles" (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both The Tonight Show, hosted by Jack Paar, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television's earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz, during this time. Burnett's mother died in 1957 just as she was gaining her first small successes in her career.

Burnett's first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress. In the same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, which she would continue until 1962. She won an Emmy that year for her "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series" on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the 1962 special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews. The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch.[7] Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall won an Emmy for Outstanding Musical. Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including the Twilight Zone, and a recurring role as a tough female Marine in Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.. Burnett became good friends with the latter show's star Jim Nabors, who would later be her first guest every season on her variety show.[8]

In 1963, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett, and after having the younger performer guest star on The Lucy Show a number of times, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom, to be produced by Desilu. Burnett declined the offer, however, deciding instead to put together a variety show. The two remained close friends until Ball's death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on her birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Ball had died. Later that afternoon, the flowers Ball had arranged arrived at Burnett's house, with the note "Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy."[9]

In 1964, Burnett was cast opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart on the variety show The Entertainers which ran for only one season. She also starred in the Broadway musical Fade Out - Fade In but was forced to quit after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident. The show’s producers sued the actress for breach of contract, but the suit was later dropped.

The Carol Burnett Show

The hour-long Carol Burnett Show, which debuted in 1967, garnered 23 Emmy Awards and won or was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards every season it was on the air. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the 9th season),[10] Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence (who was cast partly because she looked like a young Burnett). The network did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety but Burnett's contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make.[11] She chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes and the rest is history.

Burnett became known for her acting and talent, and for ending each show by tugging her ear, which was a message to the grandmother who had raised her to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her.

A true variety show in its simplest of forms, The Carol Burnett Show struck a chord with viewers through parodies of films ("Went With the Wind"), television ("As the Stomach Turns") and commercials. Burnett and team struck gold with the original skit "The Family", which eventually was spun off into its own television show called Mama's Family, starring Vicki Lawrence.

The show also became known for its closing theme song, with the following lyrics:

I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, 'So long.'[12]

During the show's run, Burnett's grandmother died. On the Lifetime Channel's "Intimate Portrait" biography on Burnett, she tearfully recalled her grandmother's last moments: "She said to my husband Joe from her hospital bed 'Joe, you see that spider up there?' There was no spider but Joe said he did anyhow. She said 'Every few minutes a big spider jumps on that little spider and they go at it like RABBITS!!' And then she died. There's laughter in everything!"[citation needed]

The Carol Burnett Show ceased production in 1978, and is generally regarded as the last successful major network prime-time variety show, to date. It continues to have success in syndicated reruns. She was open to her fans, never refusing to give an autograph and had limited patience for "Those who've made it, then complain about loss of privacy."[4]

Other roles

Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running, including Pete 'n' Tillie (1972). After the show ended, Burnett assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie Friendly Fire. She appeared as Beatrice O'Reilly in the film Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice, a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism. Her other film work includes The Four Seasons, Annie, and Noises Off. She also returned to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in movie version of Once Upon a Mattress.

Burnett also made occasional returns to the stage: in 1974, she appeared at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password — an association she maintained until the early 1980s.

Burnett was also the first celebrity to appear on the children's series, Sesame Street, on that series' first episode on November 10, 1969.[13]

In the 1980s and 1990s, she made several attempts at starting a new variety program. She also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show's The Family sketches spinoff, Mama's Family, as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins. She also played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno, which parodied the night-time soap opera Falcon Crest, co-starring with Dabney Coleman, Charles Grodin, Teri Garr and Gregory Harrison.

Burnett returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You when she played Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt).

Burnett has long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children. She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her. Burnett suddenly found herself playing the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds), and raising hell for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (Ruth Warrick). She hosted a 25th anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005 episode celebrating the 35th anniversary of the program. Due to scheduling conflicts, the scene was shot on the Los Angeles set of General Hospital instead of the New York City set where All My Children is taped.

In 2008, she had her second role as an animated character, in Horton Hears a Who!. Her first was in The Trumpet of the Swan.

In 2009, she made a guest appearance on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

Personal life

The first house Burnett lived in was the Beverly Hills house formerly owned by Harry James and Betty Grable. Growing up in rented rooms, an actual house was "a luxury", as "A Murphy bed was [her] idea of spacious."[4]

She married Don Saroyan on December 15, 1955; the couple divorced in 1962. On May 4, 1963, Burnett married TV producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, with whom she had three daughters: actress and writer Carrie Hamilton, Jody Hamilton, and singer Erin Hamilton. The marriage ended in divorce in 1984, and Joe Hamilton later died of cancer. On November 24, 2001, she married Brian Miller (principal drummer in and contractor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra), who is twenty-three years her junior.

In January 2002, Carrie Hamilton died of lung and brain cancer at the age of 38. She had become addicted to drugs as a teenager, but overcame the addictions with the help of her husband. Burnett and Carrie wrote a play together called Hollywood Arms, which was adapted from Burnett's bestselling memoir, One More Time. The Broadway production featured Linda Lavin as Burnett's character's beloved grandmother.


Burnett drew attention in 1981, when she sued the National Enquirer for libel after the tabloid newspaper described her alleged public drunkenness, purportedly with Henry Kissinger. Carol was particularly sensitive to the accusations because of her parents' own alcoholism. The case was a landmark for libel cases involving celebrities, although the unprecedented $1.6 million verdict for Burnett was reduced to about $800,000 on appeal, and eventually settled out of court.

She donated a portion of that award to the University of Hawaii and University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism saying she hoped the suit would teach aspiring journalists the dangers of defaming individuals in articles. The money was used to fund Law and Ethics courses at the school. Burnett said at the time that she didn't care if she just won "car fare", and that the lawsuit was a matter of principle.

In March 2007, she sued 20th Century Fox for copyright infringement, trademark violation, statutory violation of right of privacy, and misappropriation of name and likeness over the use of an altered version of her signature closing song and the portrayal of her charwoman character in an episode of Family Guy.[14] At the time, Seth MacFarlane, creator and producer of Family Guy, issued the statement that much of Burnett's own success was in the field of parodying others. On May 26, 2007, the lawsuit was dismissed by a Los Angeles federal judge.[15]

Awards and recognition

Emmy Awards

  • 1962 - Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, The Garry Moore Show
  • 1963 - Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall and An Evening with Carol Burnett
  • 1969, 1970, 1971 - Nominated for Outstanding Variety or Musical Series, The Carol Burnett Show
  • 1972 - Outstanding Variety Series - Musical, The Carol Burnett Show, shared with Joe Hamilton (executive producer) and Arnie Rosen (producer)
  • 1972 - Nominated for Outstanding Single Program - Variety or Musical - Variety and Popular Music, Jule and Carol at Lincoln Center
  • 1973 - Nominated for Outstanding Variety Musical Series, The Carol Burnett Show, with Joe Hamilton (executive producer), and Bill Angelos, Buz Kohan, and Arnie Rosen (producers)
  • 1974 - Outstanding Music-Variety Series, The Carol Burnett Show, with Joe Hamilton (executive producer) and Ed Simmons (producer)
  • 1974 - Nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, 6 Rms Riv Vu
  • 1975 - Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series, The Carol Burnett Show, with Joe Hamilton (executive producer) and Ed Simmons (producer)
  • 1976, 1977, 1978 - Nominated for Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series, The Carol Burnett Show, with Joe Hamilton (executive producer) and Ed Simmons (producer)
  • 1977 - Nominated for Outstanding Special - Comedy-Variety or Music, Sills and Burnett at the Met, with Beverly Sills and Joe Hamilton (producer)
  • 1979 - Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special, Friendly Fire
  • 1983 - Nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, Texaco Star Theater: Opening Night
  • 1993 - Nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, The Larry Sanders Show
  • 1995 - Nominated for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, Men, Movies & Carol
  • 1997 - Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Mad About You
  • 1998 - Nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, Mad About You
  • 2002 - Nominated for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special, Carol Burnett: Show Stoppers, with John Hamilton and Rick Hawkins (executive producers), Jody Hamilton and Mary Jo Blue (producers)
  • 2009 - Nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Golden Globe Awards

  • 1968 - Best TV Star - Female, The Carol Burnett Show
  • 1970, 1972, 1977, 1978 - Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy, The Carol Burnett Show
  • 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979 - Nominated for Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy, The Carol Burnett Show
  • 1973 - Nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy, Pete 'n' Tillie
  • 1979 - Nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role, A Wedding
  • 1982 - Nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress - Comedy/Musical, The Four Seasons
  • 1983 - Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical, Annie
  • 1983 - Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice
  • 1991 - Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical, Carol & Company




  • The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show (regular in 1955)
  • Stanley (1956–1957)
  • Omnibus (October 1956)
  • The Garry Moore Show (regular from 1959–1962)
  • Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (1962)
  • The Twilight Zone (played Agnes Grep in episode Cavender is Coming- 1962)
  • An Evening with Carol Burnett (1963)
  • Calamity Jane (1963)
  • Once Upon a Mattress (1964)
  • The Entertainers (1964–1965)
  • The Lucy Show (special guest star-4 episodes-1966)
  • Carol + 2 (1967)
  • Get Smart (1967) as "Ozark" Annie Jones in Season 3 episode "One Of Our Olives Is Missing"
  • The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978)
  • The Carol Burnett Show in London (1970)
  • Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center (1971)
  • Once Upon a Mattress (1972)
  • 6 Rms Riv Vu (1974)
  • Out to Lunch (1974)
  • Twigs (1975)
  • Cher (1975)
  • Sills and Burnett at the Met (1976)
  • All My Children (cast member: 1976, 1983, 1995, and 2005)
  • Dolly and Carol in Nashville (1978)
  • The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank (1978)
  • Friendly Fire (1979)
  • Carol Burnett & Company (1979) (canceled after 4 episodes)
  • The Tenth Month (1979)
  • Eunice (1982) (teleplay based on the Family sketches separate from Mama's Family)
  • Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice' (1982)
  • Between Friends (1983)
  • Mama's Family (cast member from 1983 to 1985)
  • Burnett Discovers Domingo (1984)
  • Magnum P.I. (1984 and 1988 as Susan Johnson)
  • The Laundromat (1985)
  • Follies in Concert (1986)
  • Fresno (1986) (miniseries)
  • Plaza Suite (1987) (also executive producer)
  • Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin (1987)
  • Fame (1987) – episode Reggie and Rose (with Carrie Hamilton), broadcast April 27, 1987
  • Hostage (1988)
  • Julie & Carol: Together Again (1989)
  • Carol & Company (1990) (canceled after one and a half seasons)
  • The Carol Burnett Show (1991) (canceled after two months)
  • The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion (1993)
  • Carol Burnett: The Special Years (1994)
  • Seasons of the Heart (1994)
  • Men, Movies & Carol (1994)
  • Touched by an Angel (1997) – episode The Comeback (with Carrie Hamilton), broadcast November 23, 1997
  • The Marriage Fool (1998)
  • Putting It Together (2000)
  • Carol Burnett: Show Stoppers (2001) (also executive producer)
  • The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up the Lights (2004) (also executive producer)
  • Once Upon a Mattress (2005) (also executive producer)
  • Desperate Housewives (2006) (guest starring role as Eleanor Mason)
  • American Masters Tribute to Carol Burnett (2007)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2009) (Emmy award-nominated guest appearance[6])




  1. ^ Carol Burnett Biography (1933-)
  2. ^ That her mother's maiden name was Creighton is confirmed in Carol's autobiography "One More Time"
  3. ^ Carol Burnett Fan
  4. ^ a b c d Joan Downs. "Here's to you, Mrs. Hamilton." Life. Vol. 70, No. 18, May 14, 1971. pp 93–97.
  5. ^ a b c "One laugh changed Carol Burnett's life". Toronto Star. June 6, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Birnie, Peter (September 17, 2009). "Burnett busy as ever with travelling show, new book -- and possibly another Emmy". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved September 18, 2009. 
  7. ^ Shulman, Arthur; Youman, Roger (1966). How Sweet It Was. Television: A Pictorial Commentary. Bonanza Books, a division of Crown Publishers.  Book has no page numbers; source: Chapter V, They Called Them Spectaculars
  8. ^ Biography of Carol Burnett at
  9. ^ Fink, Mitchell. The Last Days of Dead Celebrities. Miramax, July 2006, 288 pages.
  10. ^ Interview on Entertainment Tonight. May 22, 2006.
  11. ^ [1] LA Times Interview
  12. ^ a b "Have a Laugh and Sing a Song." National Review. Retrieved on 2007-05-14.
  13. ^ Muppet Wiki: Sesame Street episode 1
  14. ^ "Carol Burnett v. Family Guy." The Smoking Gun. Retrieved on 2007-05-14.
  15. ^ Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy 10 Zen Retrieved on 7-3-07

External links

Preceded by
Sammy Davis, Jr., Helen Hayes, Alan King, and Jack Lemmon
44th Academy Awards
Oscars host
45th Academy Awards (with Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, and Rock Hudson)
Succeeded by
John Huston, David Niven, Burt Reynolds, and Diana Ross
46th Academy Awards


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is a five-time Golden Globe winning American actress and comedienne, famous for her sketch comedy television program, The Carol Burnett Show.


  • Adolescence is just one big walking pimple.
  • Celebrity was a long time in coming; it will go away. Everything goes away.
  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.
  • Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head.
  • I don't have false teeth. Do you think I'd buy teeth like these?
  • I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don't work out, that's when I've really learned.
  • I liked myself better when I wasn't me.
  • This is to explain just how your mom turned out to be the kind of hairpin she is.
  • We didn't exactly starve, but we were pretty poor when I was growing up. I remember thinking, Oh gosh, if I could just make thirty dollars a month to help with the rent, that would be fabulous. So perhaps I envied performers when I heard that Bing Crosby made twenty dollars a minute.
  • When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go.
  • Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.

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