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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
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).
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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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