The life span for other variety series in the 1970s rarely exceeded two seasons, and their total number had dwindled substantially from the heyday of variety shows in the 1950s. Only Carol managed to remain popular and successful. The small nucleus of her regular cast remained constant for several years, without none of her original supporting troupes leaving until 1974. Their chemistry helped hold the show together. The binding force, however,was Carol, one of television's most versatile variety performers, who could sing, dance, act, clown, and mime with equal facility.
- The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946 - Present
THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW AND ITS CAST
Carol's show usually began with an impromptu question and answer session with the studio audience. The cast would then perform a series of comedy sketches. At the end of the show, Carol would come on stage and sing her signature farewell song, "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together," written by her then-husband Joe Hamilton. If time permitted, she would answer a few more questions from the audience. During the question and answer segments, there would be requests for Carol to perform her "Tarzan" impersonation
The most popular comedy sketches on The Carol Burnett Show included "Mr. Tuddball and Mrs. Wiggins" in which Burnett played a "not too bright" secretary who constantly annoyed her boss, played by Tim Conway. In a recurring skit called "The Family," Carol and Harvey Korman portrayed Eunice and Ed Higgins, a bickering couple who also fought with Eunice's bombastic "Mama" (Vicki Lawrence wearing a grey wig, glasses and a padded dress). Another popular skit was "As the Stomach Turns," a parody of soap operas.
After eleven years, Carol ended her show gracefully and with style. Her two-hour finale, "A Special Evening with Carol Burnett," was aired on March 29th, 1978, featuring past highlights and new skits. Carol Burnett sang 'I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together' and tugged her earlobe for the final time (a gesture she used to pay tribute to her grandmother who who passed away on March 7, 1967). In the closing moments of the show, Carol, dressed as her trademark charwoman, sat backstage waving goodbye to staff and cast. Harvey Korman, who was a guest on the last show, came by and gave her a kiss.
In the summer of 1979, four episodes of Carol Burnett & Company were produced by ABC. The comedy-variety show ran weekly from August 18 to September 8, 1979. Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway were once again part of Carol's cast, along with actor Craig Richard Nelson and comedian Kenneth Mars.
Below are photos of the cast of The Carol Burnett Show in 1967 (the show's first season) and a decade late. On the left are cast members in 1967 (clockwise from the bottom): Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, on the right, the 1977 cast: Burnett, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman.
|Carol in 1974|
|Mabel E. White|
In 1951, Carol graduated from Hollywood High School. She had planned to study journalism at the University of California in Los Angeles, but switched her focus to theatre and English instead. With the intention of becoming a playwright, she entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. While at UCLA, Carol performed in campus productions in which her comedic and singing talents brought her increasing recognition. In 1954, she and her boyfriend,(future husband Don Saroyan) left college to pursue acting careers in New York City.
At first, Carol had difficulty finding acting jobs in New York and worked as a coat check attendant. Then, in 1955, the aspiring actress was cast as the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show. Carol's stint on the children's show led to a role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom, Stanley, from 1956 to 1957. She played Hacket's gawky girlfriend, Celia, in the series.
In 1959, Carol Burnett became a regular on Garry Moore's variety show. That same year, she received rave reviews for her performance in the Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress. Carol left The Garry Moore Show in 1962 to pursue new opportunities in film, theatre and television. She signed a ten-year contract with CBS and the network paired her with Julie Andrews in an Emmy-winning special .entitled Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. It was broadcast on June 11, 1962.
|Carol with Garry Moore (Left) and Durward Kirby, 1961|
During the early 1960s, Carol guest-starred on an episode of the The Twilight Zone. entitled "Cavender is Coming" (Season 3, Episode 36, Air Date: My 25, 1962) in which she played a woman who is helped by a bumbling guardian angel. She also played the lead role in Calamity Jane, a 90-minute television movie that aired on November 12, 1963.
In the mid-1960s, Carol became acquainted with Lucille Ball when Lucy guest-starred on her successful 1966 CBS special Carol + 2, along with actor and comedian Zero Mostel. Carol returned the favour by appearing in two episodes of The Lucy Show, one which aired in 1966 and the other in 1967. She also appeared in three episodes of a later Lucille Ball sitcom called Here's Lucy. Despite the difference in their ages, the two red-heads developed a friendship that lasted until Lucy's death in 1989.
By 1967, Carol Burnett was such a popular entertainer that CBS wanted to give her a sitcom of her own. The network, though, was reluctant about having a woman headline a variety show, even one as talented as Carol (female TV variety show hosts were rare back then). Carol, however, took advantage of a stipulation in her contract that allowed her to do a one-hour variety show. In an October, 2000 Los Angeles Times interview, Burnett told entertainment writer Susan King that when she and then-husband Joe Hamilton phoned CBS executives to discuss the matter, they said "'Carol, it would be better if you did a sitcom.' I said, 'Variety is all I know and all I want to do - I love the music, the guest stars. This is what I know and what I love.' So they had to put it on."
Now 82 years old, Burnett remains active. Her most recent television credits include roles in (Desperate Housewives (2006), Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (2009), Glee (2010) and two episodes of Hot in Cleveland (2013) (2015), In 2014, she appeared on Broadway with Brian Dennehy in a limited-engagement run of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. She has also been the recipient of many prestigious awards. In 2005, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Carol Burnett has been married three times. On December 15, 1955, she wed her college sweetheart, Don Saroyan. They divorced in 1962. On May 4, 1963, she wed television producer Joe Hamilton, a father of eight children from his previous marriage to Gloria Hartley. It was Hamilton who directed Carol's 1962 Carnegie Hall concert. He was also the executive producer of The Carol Burnett Show
Carol's marriage to Joe Hamilton lasted until 1984 and produced three daughters: Carrie (born December 5, 1963), Jody (born January 18, 1967) and Erin (born August 14, 1968). Carrie Hamilton, the oldest daughter, died on January 20, 2002, of lung and brain cancer at the age of 38. She was an actress and singer. The youngest daughter, 47- year-old Erin Hamilton, is a singer too.
Carol was devastated by Carrie's death. In 2013, she published a memoir titled Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story. The book deals with Carries's struggles with drug addiction and her courageous battle with cancer.
On November 24, 2001, Carol married Brian Miller, a man over 20 years her junior. He is the principal drummer in and contractor of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra.
|Carol with husband Brian Miller|
Vicki's life changed dramatically when, at the urging of her mother, she sent a fan letter to Carol Burnett. The letter included a local news article about how much the two resembled each other and and invited Carol to attend the local fire department's "Miss Fireball of Inglewood" contest in which Vicki was scheduled to perform. As fate would have it, Carol was then searching for someone who could play her kid sister on her upcoming variety show. She attended the event and decided that Vicki should portray her younger sibling.
In the fall of 1967, 18-year-old Vicki Lawrence made her debut on the first episode of The Carol Burnett Show. With Burnett and castmate Harvey Korman as her mentors, Vicki's career really took off, She remained with the show until its last episode in 1978, winning an Emmy Award for her work on the series and multiple Golden Globe nominations.
When The Carol Burnett Show ended its run, Vicki starred in her own television series, Mama's Family, based on a recurring comedy sketch on Carol's show called "The Family." She portrayed Thelma Harper, better known as Mama, her popular character from the skit. Mama's Family aired on NBC from January of 1983 until April of 1984. Its co-stars included Ken Berry, Dorothy Lyman, and Rue McClanahan. Carol Burnett portrayed Eunice in some episodes of the series and other guest stars included Betty White and Harvey Korman.
|Vicki Lawrence as Mama|
Through the years,Vicki Lawrence has made appearances on numerous television series including multiple episodes of Laverne and Shirley and Murder, She Wrote. She also appeared on Roseanne (1993), Burke's Law (1995), Diagnosis Murder (1996) and Ally McBeal (1999). From 2001 to 2005, Vicki had a recurring role as Natalie Warner in the comedy Yes, Dear alongside her Carol Burnett Show castmate, Tim Conway, who played Tom Warner. From 2006 until 2011, she played Grandma Stewart/Manaw Ruthue on the Hannah Montana TV series. Vicki continues to make TV guest appearances in her renowned "Mama/Thelma Harper role. On February 5. 2013, she portrayed the character in a sketch for Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday.
Vicki Lawrence has been married twice. Her first husband was country singer/songwriter Bobby Russell, to whom she was wed from 1972 to 1974 (It was he who composed "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia). Sadly, Russell died of heart disease at the age of 52 in Kentucky.
On November 16, 1974, Vicki Lawrence married her second husband, Hollywood make-up artist Al Schultz. The couple has two children, a daughter named Courtney Allison Schultz (born May 5, 1975), and a son named Garrett Lawrence Schultz (born July 3, 1977).
Prior to joining the Burnett ensemble, Lyle was a finalist for the part of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the classic Batman television series (1966-1968). He had a screen test for the role, but lost out to Adam West. Such is fate, however, because if he had won the part, he would not have been able to join the cast of The Carol Burnett Show in 1967.
|Lyle with Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman|
In 1976, Lyle Waggoner was elected mayor of Encino, California. In 1979, he started a business called "Star Waggons" which provides film and television companies with studio location rental trailers.
During the 1980s, Lyle appeared in episodes of such TV shows as Happy Days (1980) (1984), Simon & Simon (1986) and Murder, She Wrote (1984). During the 1990s, he appeared in two more episodes of Murder, She Wrote (1991) (1993), Burke's Law (1995), Ellen (1996) and Love Boat: The Next Wave (1999). To date, his most recent role on a television series was a 2005 episode of the comedy The War at Home entitled "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (Season 1, Episode 10, Air Date: December 18, 2005).
Lyle has been married to Sharon Kennedy, an actress, financial consultant and realtor since September 17, 1960 (some sources state that they wed in 1961). Their marriage has lasted for well over 50 years and they have two sons, Jason and Beau. This past April, Lyle Waggoner celebrated his 80th birthday.
|Lyle and Sharon Waggoner|
Born February, 15, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, Harvey first made his mark on television as a second banana on The Danny Kaye Show. He joined the show in its second season in 1964, appearing in skits with Kaye. He remained with the series until it was cancelled in 1967. The lanky, talented comedian was then cast as a regular on The Carol Burnett Show.
Harvey Korman appeared on the Burnett show until the spring of 1977,when he decided to leave to pursue other projects. Unfortunately, Harvey never repeated the success he had had on The Carol Burnett Show. His half-hour ABC sitcom, The Harvey Korman Show, was short-lived. It was cancelled after only six episodes due to low ratings.
Meanwhile, Korman's departure from Carol's show created a void which was very difficult to fill. Dick Van Dyke was chosen to replace him, but the chemistry just wasn't there. Three months later, a dissatisfied Van Dyke made an abrupt departure. Regular guest stars Steve Lawrence and Ken Berry were summoned to take his place in what turned out to be the show's final season.
In 1981, Harvey reunited with Tim Conway, his former co-star on The Carol Burnett Show, joining the cast of Conway's 1981-1982 variety series, The Tim Conway Show. The two comedians later toured together, performing skits from the show and other material.
Harvey Korman's most noteworthy film role was in Mel Brooks’ 1974 Western satire, Blazing Saddles. He played the role of the strangely bizarre Hedley Lamarr (who was constantly frustrated when people called him Hedy). "A world without Harvey Kormaan - it’s a more serious world,” Brooks told the Associated Press (AP) at the time of Harvey's death. “It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we’d crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh."
Harvey was married twice. He wed his first wife Donna Ehlert in 1960 and they had two children, Maria and Christopher. The marriage lasted until 1977. In 1982, he wed Deborah Korman (née Fritz). They raised two daughters, Kate and Laura Korman, and remained together until Harvey's death.
Tim has worked in television since the 1950s when he was employed at a Cleveland TV station. His first big break occurred in 1960 when he was hired by The Steve Allen Show after comedienne Rose Marie arranged for him to have an audition. In order to avoid confusion with British actor Tom Conway, he changed his first name to "Tim."
From 1962 until 1966, Tim Conway portrayed Ensign Charles Parker in McHales's Navy, a TV comedy about a PT Boat crew during World War II. The highly successful series starred Ernest Borgnine as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale and also featured Joe Flynn.as Captain Walter B. Binghampton.
In 1967, Tim took on the role of an inept Texas Ranger in the short-lived Western comedy Rango. In 1970, he starred in another 30 minute sitcom called The Tim Conway Show, in which he played the only pilot of a single-plane charter airline. His co-star was Joe Flynn from his McHale's Navy days. The series, however, was not well-received and only lasted 12 episodes.
Tim first met Carol when she was a regular on the The Garry Moore Show. At the time, he was an up-and-coming comedian and he was doing a stint on Moore's Sunday evening variety show. When he saw Carol, he thought "she was a scream."
Although Tim had made frequent guest appearances on The Carol Burnett Show since its first season in 1967, he did not became a regular until the start of the 1975-1976 season, filling the void left by the departure of Lyle Waggoner.
“All of a sudden in the ninth season of the show, we said why don’t we have Tim on every week?” Burnett told the Los Angeles Times in a 2010 interview with her and Conway, “He was already on about every other week. It was like ‘duh." For his part, Tim responded, "This lady is responsible for my career."
The funnyman's ability to ad lib jokes and his comical facial expressions made the rest of the cast crack up on air, especially his colleague Harvey Korman. Korman and Conway worked comedy magic together. One of the most popular sketches from The Carol Burnett Show was the one in which Tim played a dentist who kept shooting himself with Novocain while Harvey was in the chair.
|Tim and Harvey's dentist routine|
Tim Conway received four Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and performer on The Carol Burnett Show. He also won Emmys for his guest appearances in a 1996 episode of Coach entitled "The Gardener" and a 2008 episode of 30 Rock entitled "Subway Hero." In the Coach episode, he played Coach Hayden Fox's (Craig T. Nelson) unconventional gardener, Kenny Montague. He reprised his role as Montague in another Coach episode.
In more recent years, Tim has appeared in episodes of Mike & Molly (2013). Two and a Half Men (2014) and Glee (2014). He has done some voice work too. From 1999 until 2012, he voiced the character of Barnacle Boy in the SpongeBob SquarePants animated TV series. He also provided the voice for Mulch in Dragons: Riders of Berk from 2012 to 2013.
Tim Conway has been married twice. From 1961 until 1978, he was married to Mary Anne Dalton and they had six children together: a daughter, Kelly Ann Conway (born July, 1962) and five sons, Tim Conway, Jr. (born October 13, 1963), Patrick Conway (born December, 1964), Jaime "Jake" Conway (born September 1966), Corey Conway (born November 1968) and Seann Conway (born August 1970). Tim and his second wife, Charlene Fusco, were wed on May 18, 1984.
Tim's eldest son, Tim Conway, Jr., is a radio host at KFI AM 640 Los Angeles. He has a nightly talk show on the popular news/talk station. According to the blurb on Tim, Jr. on KFI AM's website, "Dad guests guests regularly on the younger Conway's radio program and recently told his son, Comedy is in your blood...too bad it's not on your show.'" Thoroughbred horse racing is also in their blood as both Tim Sr. and Tim Jr. are fans of the sport. The elder Conway co-founded Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund to support injured and disabled jockeys.
|Tim Conway Jr,|
* The very first guest host on The Carol Burnett Show was actor/singer Jim Nabors, At the time, Jim, a close friend of Carol's, was starring in the hit comedy Gomer Pyle, USMC Carrol regarded him as her good luck charm and he was a guest on every season opener for the next ten years. (Note: Burnett appeared in two episodes of Gomer Pyle, USMC, "Corporal Carol" in 1967 and "Showtime with Sgt. Carol" in 1969).
* In addition to Carrie and Me (2013), Carol Burnett is the author of two other memoirs: One More Time (1986) and This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection (2010),
* During the 1965-1966 season of The Flintstones (its final season on network television), Harvey Korman provided the voice for The Great Gazoo, a tiny, helmeted, green alien.
* In 1981, Carol Burnett made headlines when she won a landmark legal case against the National Enquirer over a story implying that while in a drunken state, she had argued with then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a Georgetown, Washington, D.C. restaurant. The case was appealed and eventually settled out of court.
* From 1996 until 1999, Carol had a recurring role as Theresa Stemple, the mother of Helen Hunt's character's on the TV comedy Mad About You. Carroll O'Connor, Archie Bunker himself, played Theresa's husband, Gus Stemple.
* Carol was a long-time fan of the daytime soap All My Children, which ABC cancelled in 2011. She made appearances on the show as Verla Grubbs in 1983, 1995 and 2011.
* From February 1972 to August 1973, Lyle Waggoner hosted a game show called It's Your Bet. The show aired in syndication, mainly on NBC stations.
* Tim Conway has written an autobiography called What's So Funny: My Hilarious Life. It was on the New York Times best seller list for ten weeks. The book has a forward by Carol Burnett.
* From 1999 to 2012, Tim Conway provided the voice for "Barnacle Boy" in 14 episodes of the SpongeBob Square Pants animated television series.
* Joe Hamilton, Carol's second husband, died of cancer on June 9, 1991.
* In 1973 Vicki Lawrence had a hit song with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and was awarded a gold record.
EDITOR'S UPDATE (May, 14, 2019): Tim Conway passed away in Los Angeles today, May 14, 2019. He was 85 years old at the time of his death. Talk show host and comedian Conan O'Brien tweeted the following: "When I was a kid watching "The Carol Burnett Show," no one made me laugh harder than Tim Conway. What a sweet and effortlessly funny man." Carol Burnett made the following statement shortly after Tim's passing: "I'm heartbroken. He was one in a million, not only as a brilliant comedian but as a loving human being. I cherish the times we had together both on the screen and off. He'll be in my heart forever."
EDITOR'S UPDATE (March 18, 2020): Lyle Waggoner died on March 17, 2020 at his home in Westlake Village, California. He was 84 years old.