Shout! Factory TV has announced that starting June 1, sketch-comedy fans can view all 11 seasons of the beloved comedy variety show The Carol Burnett Show (1967–78) on a variety of streaming platforms (find out more here).
What better time to check in with the groundbreaking comedian? Read on as Burnett, 87, tells AARP about her favorite moments and people, handling lockdown, her plans for the future and her key to a happy life.
First, her favorite guests
Steve Lawrence — not only could he sing, but he was brilliant in comedy. Our first guest, Bernadette Peters, she was 19 or 20. We saw her in a show called Dames at Sea. And Ken Berry, a brilliant, very funny song-and-dance man.
Still funny after all these years
The sketches we did 40 or 50 years ago hold up today. I dare anybody over 45 not to laugh their pants off at Tim Conway and Harvey Korman’s dentist sketch. The only time anything looks dated is what we wore.
A full-scale production every week
There’s nothing like The Carol Burnett Show today, because we did, in essence, a musical-comedy revue every week. It was like a mini-Broadway show, with dancing and singing and comedy and sketches, with guest stars — minimum 65 costumes a week and a 28-piece orchestra. They can’t do that today!
I’m getting fan mail from 10-year-olds and people in their 20s who weren’t born when we started our show: “As soon as we get home from school, we watch your stuff on YouTube before we do our homework.”
Whatever happened to class?
A lot of television today is more on the mean side than the fun side, so I don’t watch many sitcoms. A lot of them get cheap laughs by talking about bodily functions. I’m not a prude, I like a good blue joke every once in a while, but it’s just too much. It’s just not classy like Mary Tyler Moore or Bob Newhart or Dick Van Dyke, who got great laughs without going low.
Favorite comics now
The ladies. I’m so happy there are so many: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Jane Lynch, Maya Rudolph — I could go on. When I started out, it was Lucy and Imogene Coca, and that was about it. Women would write something and just use their initials because people wouldn’t want to read it if it was written by a woman.