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Favorite Funny Lady Carol Burnett

A look back at how she has made us laugh and laugh and laugh

A Star Is Born

Carol Burnett, at 24, singing "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles," a comic ode to the then-secretary of state, at a New York nightclub. When Jack Paar heard about it, he booked her on The Tonight Show — her first big break. 

1957: AP Photo

Broadway Bound

Burnett played Princess Winifred in the musical Once Upon a Mattress on Broadway in 1959, and later in various TV versions of the comedy (though in 2005 she played the scheming Queen Aggravain, with Tracey Ullman as Winifred).

1960: Bettmann/Corbis

Stretching Her Funny Bone

Burnett on The Garry Moore Show, here with Nat King Cole and Moore in 1962. Her stint on the show from 1958 to 1964 was where she realized her calling for sketch comedy.

 

1962: Everett Collection

Best Friends: Part 1

Burnett and close friend Julie Andrews costarred in a television special taped at Carnegie Hall in 1962. Burnett is godmother to Andrews' daughter Emma, who's now 50.

1962: Everett Collection

The Laugh Factory

The Carol Burnett Show on CBS starred (from left) Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Burnett and Harvey Korman. The series won an astounding 25 Emmy awards over its 11-year run from 1967 to 1978.

1977: CBS/Photofest

Lucy Loved Her

Lucille Ball, Jim Nabors and Burnett at the International Radio and TV Society Gold Medal Awards in 1971. Ball was a mentor and dear friend to Burnett; Nabors guest-starred on the first episode of Burnett's show every season.

1971: Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images

And the Password Is ...

Burnett was a frequent guest on the hit TV game show Password. Here she and Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) take on entertainer Merv Griffin and Marcia Wallace (The Bob Newhart Show) as host Allan Ludden keeps score.

1973: ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

Best Friends: Part 2

Burnett with her close friend, the opera singer Beverly Sills, in the 1976 TV special Sills and Burnett at the Met, which featured the duo performing a mix of music and comedy.

1976: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

An Unfunny Moment

In a 1981 lawsuit accusing the National Enquirer of libel, Burnett took the stand. The tabloid reported that she had created a scene and argued with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger while drunk at a restaurant. She won.

1981: Bettmann/Corbis

Perfect Partners

Left, longtime look-alike collaborators Burnett and Vicki Lawrence during the reign of The Carol Burnett Show. Right, the pair in Mama's Family, a spin-off show based on the famous sketch featuring Lawrence as "Mama" Harper and Burnett as the high-strung Eunice Higgins.

c. 1967, 1984: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Mother and Daughter

This photo of Burnett with Carrie Hamilton, the eldest of her three daughters, is on the cover of Burnett's new memoir, Carrie & Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, about Carrie's youthful struggles with drug addiction and her 2002 death from cancer at age 38.

1987: Tony Esparza/CBS/Getty Images

Funny People

Burnett, always in good comedic company, is shown here with Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, George Burns and Walter Matthau as they're all inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 1994.

1994: Everett Collection

In Good Company

In 2003 Burnett is a Kennedy Center Honoree, along with country star Loretta Lynn, director Mike Nichols, entertainer James Brown and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

2003: Scott Suchman/WireImage

An American Treasure

Burnett was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005 for "her extraordinary contributions to American entertainment" and "enhancing the lives of millions of Americans."

2005: Douglas A. Sonders/Getty Images

Being Gleeful

Burnett guest-starred on Glee in 2010, with Jane Lynch — one of her favorite comedians ("Jane Lynch just kills me," Burnett told AARP in a recent interview).

2010: Michael Yarish/Fox/Everett Collection

The Goodnight 'Ear-Tug'

Burnett on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno last year, tugging her ear — a trademark gesture that started as a way to say hello to her grandmother  during TV appearances. (See Carol in action! Check out the videos at the bottom of this page.)

2012: Stacie McChesney/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

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