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The Carol Burnett Show
File:The Carol Burnett Show.jpg
Format Variety, sketch comedy
Starring Carol Burnett
Harvey Korman
Vicki Lawrence
Lyle Waggoner
Tim Conway
Dick Van Dyke
Opening theme "Carol's Theme" by
Joe Hamilton[1]
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 11
No. of episodes 278
Executive producer(s) Bob Banner
Joe Hamilton
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 54 mins.
Production company(s) Burngood, Inc. (1967–1972)
Punkin' Productions, Inc. (1972–1976)
Whacko, Inc. (1976–1978)
Original channel CBS
Audio format Monaural
Original run Template:Start dateTemplate:End date

The Carol Burnett Show is a variety / sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway. It originally ran on CBS from September 11, 1967, to March 29, 1978, for 278 episodes and originated from CBS Television City's Studio 33 (known today as the Bob Barker Studio). The series won 25 prime time Emmy Awards, was ranked #16 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002[2] and in 2007 was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."[3]


The popular variety show made the stars household names with such sketches as "As the Stomach Turns", (a parody of As the World Turns) and "Went with the Wind" (a parody of Gone with the Wind, featuring a scene with Burnett as Starlett O'Hara in the dress made from a window curtain, complete with the curtain rod), "Carol & Sis", "Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins", "The Family" (which would later spin off into a show called Mama's Family), "Nora Desmond" (Burnett's send-up of Gloria Swanson's character Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard), and "Stella Toddler." A frequent repeated segment was "Kitchen Commercials", in which cast members parodied TV commercials that drove a woman (Burnett) crazy. The show had frequent, high recognition guest stars. The long-running show was frequently nominated for Emmys, and won three times.

A unique feature of the show consisted of a question-and-answer segment involving Carol Burnett with the audience, in CBS Studio 33. Burnett did this for about 3–4 minutes at the start of most shows. Burnett would ask for the lights above the audience to be turned up ("Let's bump up the lights...") and then randomly pick audience members who raised their hands to ask her questions. This informality was possible due to the design of Studio 33; cameras were to the left and right of the stage with one below in the pit and one suspended, so the actors were very close to the audience.

Sample question from young woman in audience: "Have you ever taken acting lessons?"
Carol: "Yes, I have."
Audience member: "Do you think it did any good?"
File:Carol Burnett Mel Torme skit 1969.JPG

Skit with Mel Torme, 1969.

The show was rehearsed for three to four hours each day until the Friday tapings, when two recordings were made. As there were only two recordings, if an actor flubbed a line in both takes, the error appeared in the broadcast, giving the show some immediacy. Pick-ups were exceptions, and usually only used for musical numbers.

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

The show also became known for its closing theme song, written by Burnett's husband, with the following lyrics:[4]

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."

At the close of each episode Burnett would tug her ear. This silent message was meant for her grandmother who raised her, and meant she was thinking of her at that moment. After her grandmother's death, Burnett continued the tradition.


File:Carol Burnett show cast 1977.JPG

Cast members in 1967: Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Wagoner. In 1977:Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett.

  • Carol Burnett
  • Vicki Lawrence
  • Harvey Korman (seasons 1–10)
  • Lyle Waggoner (seasons 1–7)
  • Tim Conway (seasons 8–11)
  • Dick Van Dyke (first half of season 11)

Vicki Lawrence, a young singer from the "Johnny Mann Singers", joined the series shortly after its start. Lawrence wrote a letter to Burnett when she was 17, remarking on her physical similarity to the comic actress. She was initially hired to play Burnett's kid sister in numerous skits. Lawrence was the only other cast member apart from Burnett to continue with the series through 1977. Tim Conway, though well remembered for his appearances on the show, did not become a full-time cast member until 1975. (Previously, he was a frequent guest, appearing as often as once a month.) Harvey Korman left the show prior to its final season; he was temporarily replaced in the fall of 1977 by Dick Van Dyke. Original cast member Lyle Waggoner left the series in 1974 to pursue a dramatic acting career and the next year was cast in Wonder Woman.

When The Carol Burnett Show made its network debut on CBS-TV in September, 1967, it was scheduled on Monday nights at 10:00 P.M. (E.S.T.) opposite NBC’s I Spy and ABC’s The Big Valley. At the end of its first season and through the spring of 1971, it consistently ranked among the top 30 programs. (For the 1969–1970 season, it posted its highest rating ever, ranking at #13.) In the fall of 1971, CBS moved the show to Wednesday nights at 8:00 P.M. (E.S.T.) where its chief competition was NBC’s Adam-12 and the ABC sitcoms Bewitched and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Despite the schedule change, the show continued to do well until the fall of 1972, when the ratings began to slip. In December, 1972, CBS again moved The Carol Burnett Show to Saturday nights at 10:00 P.M. (E.S.T.) where, for the next four years, it not only received solid ratings but was also part of a powerhouse Saturday night lineup of primetime shows that included All In The Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show.

File:Tim Conway Carol Burnett Dick Van Dyke Carol Burnett Show 1977.JPG

The cast for the final season of the show.

In the spring of 1977, the series ebbed in Nielsen ratings. The audience viewing habits for The Carol Burnett Show was about to change. During the 1976–1977 season, it ranked at #35. Nevertheless, CBS renewed Burnett's show for the 1977–1978 season. However, with the absence of Harvey Korman and the show’s new competition on ABC, Fantasy Island, the ratings continued to sink. CBS, in a desperate attempt to save the series, moved The Carol Burnett Show from Saturday nights at 10:00 P.M to Sunday nights at 10:00 P.M. beginning in December, 1977. As a result, the ratings improved considerably. CBS wanted to renew the show for another year, but Burnett decided to end the series on her own rather than through cancellation. Thus, on March 29, 1978, in a special two-hour finale, The Carol Burnett Show left prime-time television after eleven years, although reruns were aired during the summer of 1978.

Burnett went on to star in movies, write a Broadway play, and continues to make appearances. Conway and Korman traveled to do comedy routines together all over the country. Vicki Lawrence had a U.S. #1 hit record in 1973 ("The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia") and went on to star in several shows of her own (Mama's Family, the NBC daytime edition of Win, Lose or Draw, and her short-lived talk show, Vicki) and continues to perform around America writing and performing comedy sketches.

Notable sketches[]

File:Curtain Dress.JPG

The Curtain Dress, worn by Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show parody of Gone With The Wind.

The most frequently cited sketch was the 1976 parody "Went with the Wind", a send-up of the classic 1939 movie Gone with the Wind. Burnett, as Starlett, descends a long staircase wearing a green curtain complete with hanging rod. The outfit, designed by Bob Mackie, is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.[5]

A recurring guest star from the show's launch (and later a regular cast member from 1975) Tim Conway provided hilarious, unrehearsed bits to sketches that became known to the staff as "Conway's Capers". Conway would play the first taping straight, but ad-lib bizarre scenarios during the second taping. Some notable clips included Conway as a Nazi interrogator berating an American captive (Lyle Waggoner). Using a Hitler puppet and a pencil as a "club," Conway sang three verses of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Some, like the Hitler puppet, made it into the final broadcast; others, like a notably convoluted story about Siamese elephants joined at the trunk (ad-libbed during a 1977 Mama's Family sketch), would be edited, replaying the uncensored version (Lawrences' response) years later on CBS specials.

Conway's favorite dupe, however, was Harvey Korman who would often break character and choke-back tears in bits with Conway as a dentist misusing Novocain, and Conway in the recurring role of "The Old Man" - an elderly, shuffling, senile man who slowly rolled down stairways and fell prey to various mechanical mishaps (including an electric wheelchair and an automated dry cleaning rack).

Conway and Burnett shared the screen many times as the oddly accented, toupeed boss Mr. Tudball confronting his empty-headed secretary Mrs. Wiggins.

Burnett and Korman gave life to has-been silent film-screen actress Nora Desmond, and her bald, but caring butler Max.

Continuations and revivals[]

The comedy sketches of the show were reedited into freestanding programs; the resulting show enjoyed success for many years in syndicated reruns (as Carol Burnett and Friends, a half-hour edition of selected 1972-'77 material). In the early 2000s (decade), certain full-length episodes of The Carol Burnett Show were released on VHS and DVD by Columbia House on a subscription basis (now discontinued). Guthy-Renker released another DVD collection, The Carol Burnett Show Collector's Edition, which is still being sold to this day.

Following repeats of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS from June to August 1978, 4 new shows were aired between August and September 1979 on ABC as Carol Burnett & Company, just prior to the beginning of the regular fall season and plans were announced for this to become an annual event but it did not. NBC aired a comedy half-hour repertory series called Carol & Company between March 1990 and July 1991 with regulars Peter Krause, Jeremy Piven, Terry Kiser, Meagan Fay, Anita Barone, and Richard Kind (and occasional guest stars such as Betty White and Burt Reynolds; each week's show was a different half-hour comedy play.

The "Mama" sketches led to a spin-off sitcom entitled Mama's Family starring Lawrence which ran from 1983 to 1990.

CBS brought back The Carol Burnett Show for another run in the fall of 1991; new regulars included Meagen Fay and Richard Kind (brought over from the NBC show), and Chris Barnes, Roger Kabler and Jessica Lundy. Only nine episodes of this revival were aired.

In 1994, reruns of the syndicated Carol Burnett and Friends package aired on Nickelodeon along with All That and The Muppet Show replacing You Can't Do That on Television. The show also aired on The Family Channel in 1996.

Over the years, the cast of The Carol Burnett Show were reunited on three CBS TV specials:

  • The Carol Burnett Show: A Reunion (January 10, 1993) featured several clips of the show's best moments from 1967–1978 with the gang reminiscing about their time together on the show.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers (November 26, 2001) consisted mostly of bloopers and outtakes from the series. The program was a major ratings success; the media credited its timing, being broadcast not long after the September 11, 2001 attacks, as contributing to its success.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: Let's Bump Up the Lights! (May 12, 2004) featured one of Burnett's favorite ongoing bits, turning up the house lights and then taking questions from members of the studio audience.

List of guest stars[]

Note: only the first appearance by the guest star is listed

Season 1 (1967–1968)[]

  • Don Adams
  • Eddie Albert
  • Lucille Ball
  • Ken Berry
  • Sid Caesar
  • Art Carney
  • Diahann Carroll
  • George Chakiris
  • Richard Chamberlain
  • Imogene Coca
  • Tim Conway (became series regular in 1975)
  • John Davidson
  • Phyllis Diller
  • Mike Douglas
  • Barbara Eden
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • John Gary
  • Bobbie Gentry
  • Frank Gorshin
  • Betty Grable
  • Jack Jones
  • Shirley Jones
  • Lainie Kazan
  • Richard Kiley
  • Durward Kirby
  • Peter Lawford
  • Gloria Loring
  • Trini Lopez
  • Barbara McNair
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Garry Moore
  • Jim Nabors
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • Jack Palance
  • Minnie Pearl
  • Juliet Prowse
  • Martha Raye
  • Lynn Redgrave
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Soupy Sales
  • The Smothers Brothers
  • Sonny & Cher (Cher later appeared, solo, in 1975)
  • Mel Tormé
  • Lana Turner
  • Gwen Verdon
  • Shani Wallis
  • Lesley Ann Warren
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Jonathan Winters

Season 2 (1968–1969)[]

  • Edie Adams
  • Barbara Bain
  • Joan Blondell
  • Vikki Carr
  • Carol Channing
  • Barrie Chase
  • Perry Como
  • Vic Damone
  • Vince Edwards
  • Eileen Farrell
  • George Gobel
  • Robert Goulet
  • Emmaline Henry
  • Marilyn Horne
  • Larry Hovis
  • Martin Landau
  • Michele Lee
  • Ross Martin
  • Ethel Merman
  • Don Rickles
  • Chita Rivera
  • Jimmie Rodgers
  • Ronnie Schell
  • Flip Wilson
  • Nancy Wilson
  • Roland Winters

Season 3 (1969–1970)[]

  • Pat Boone
  • George Carlin
  • Pat Carroll
  • Jane Connell
  • Bing Crosby
  • Barbara Feldon
  • Merv Griffin
  • Andy Griffith
  • Steve Lawrence
  • Peggy Lee
  • Audrey Meadows
  • Kay Medford
  • Scoey Mitchell
  • Donald O'Connor
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Joan Rivers
  • Rowan & Martin (Dick Martin later appeared, solo, in 1972 and 1974)
  • Kaye Stevens
  • Edward Villella

Season 4 (1970–1971)[]

  • Jim Bailey
  • Dyan Cannon
  • Cass Elliot
  • Totie Fields
  • David Frost
  • Eydie Gormé
  • Rita Hayworth
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Rich Little
  • Paul Lynde
  • Ricardo Montalban
  • Bob Newhart
  • Paul Paulsen
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Leslie Uggams
  • Violette Verdy

Season 5 (1971–1972)[]

  • Kaye Ballard
  • Karen Black
  • The Carpenters
  • Ray Charles
  • Dom DeLuise
  • Shecky Greene
  • Jack Klugman
  • Vincent Price
  • Tony Randall
  • Burt Reynolds

Season 6 (1972–1973)[]

  • Pearl Bailey
  • Ruth Buzzi
  • John Byner
  • Jack Cassidy
  • Petula Clark
  • William Conrad
  • Marty Feldman
  • Jack Gilford
  • Joel Grey
  • Valerie Harper
  • Paula Kelly
  • Melba Moore
  • Anthony Newley
  • Helen Reddy
  • Carl Reiner
  • Paul Sand
  • Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara
  • Lily Tomlin

Season 7 (1973–1974)[]

  • Lucette Aldous
  • Charo
  • Richard Crenna
  • The Jackson 5
  • Roddy McDowall
  • Gloria Swanson
  • Jack Weston

Season 8 (1974–1975)[]

  • Alan Alda
  • James Coco
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Rock Hudson
  • Janet Jackson
  • Alan King
  • Kenneth Mars
  • The Pointer Sisters
  • Wayne Rogers
  • Telly Savalas
  • Phil Silvers
  • Maggie Smith
  • Jean Stapleton
  • Sally Struthers
  • Nancy Walker
  • Lena Zavaroni

Season 9 (1975–1976)[]

  • Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Emmett Kelly
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Rita Moreno
  • Dick Van Dyke
  • Jessica Walter
  • Betty White
  • Joanne Woodward

Season 10 (1976–1977)[]

  • Glen Campbell
  • Madeline Kahn
  • Hal Linden
  • Neil Sedaka
  • Dinah Shore
  • Ben Vereen

Season 11 (1977–1978)[]

  • Captain and Tennille
  • Natalie Cole
  • Nancy Dussault
  • James Garner
  • Steve Martin
  • James Stewart

Nielsen Ratings[]

Template:Unreferenced section

Season Rank Timeslot
1 (1967–68) #27 Mondays at 10:00 p.m.
2 (1968–69) #24
3 (1969–70) #13
4 (1970–71) #25
5 (1971–72) #23 Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m.
6 (1972–73) #22
7 (1973–74) #27 Saturdays at 10:00 p.m.
8 (1974–75) #29
9 (1975–76)
10 (1976–77) #35
11 (1977–78) #43



  • Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows

External links[]

Template:EmmyAward VarietyMusicComedy 1951–1975 Template:GoldenGlobeTVComedy 1969–1989

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