How Carol Burnett continues to surprise fans

Burnett was also one of the first to offer live skits before a studio audience on her variety show, an innovation that was a precursor to modern hit shows such as Saturday Night Live, explains Rich Libner, CEO of MCP Talent Agency, which represents a variety of comedians.

But more than just being a woman in a man’s world (and one who was a smashing success in that arena), Burnett also produced some of comedy’s most enduring characters and sketches during her years of creating The Carol Burnett Show.

“Her most well-known characters were all created for skits on her show,” says Libner. “They include: Miss Wiggins, the secretary opposite Tim Conway; Eunice in a skit called The Family, which also introduced Vicki Lawrence as Mama; Starlet O’Hara, which spoofed Gone with the Wind; and the Chairwoman, who was the janitor who had big dreams and a voice to match.”

Decades of memorable performances

While Burnett’s comedy variety show left a lasting mark on the hearts and minds of viewers and critics, “she also offered remarkable performances in movies and in musicals over the years,” says Libner. “She is also Broadway trained, so her talents extend to singing and dancing.”

Burnett’s long list of Broadway productions includes: Love Letters (2014), Hollywood Arms (2002), Putting it Together (1999), Moon Over Buffalo (1995), Fade Out – Fade In (1964) and Once Upon a Mattress (1959), to name a few. Her forays into feature films, meanwhile, included Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), The Front Page (1974), and The Four Seasons (1981), among many others. Each of these efforts further underscored her deep well of talent, as did her eclectic TV appearances.

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“Carol Burnett took a big leap towards stardom on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress, earning a Tony Award nomination [in 1960],” says Berman. He says that her television debut as a “second-banana” – an industry term for a supporting player in a comedy show – on The Garry Moore Show “introduced her to a national audience, for which she won her first Emmy Award in 1962. She also starred in one of the few episodes of The Twilight Zone that sought to be truly comedic, titled ‘Cavender is Coming,'” says Berman.

Burnett’s 1962 music and comedy special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews, is still considered a highlight in television history, adds Berman. The program won an Emmy Award in 1963 for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music, and Burnett took home an individual Emmy for outstanding performance.

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