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16 Facts About Carol Burnett, Hollywood’s Legendary Comedienne

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Carol Burnett, an iconic figure in the world of comedy, has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Known for her self-deprecating humor, slapstick comedy and fearless performances, she paved the way for future sketch artists such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig. Let’s explore 16 intriguing facts about the legendary comedian.

1. Early years and family struggles

Born in 1933 during the Great Depression in San Antonio, Texas, Carol Burnett’s early years were marked by financial hardship. Raised by her grandmother and great-grandmother (whom they affectionately called “Nanny” and “Goggy”), she overcame family dysfunction and poverty.

2. Sketch “Family”: Personal reflections

On “The Carol Burnett Show,” a skit called “The Family” reflects Burnett’s own experiences in a dysfunctional Southern family. Burnett’s character “Eunice” was influenced by her tough and eccentric nanny. The sketch later developed into the TV series “Mama’s Family”.

3. Mysterious benefactors and the realization of dreams

Encouraged by her mother to pursue writing, Burnett initially studied journalism at UCLA. Faced with financial challenges, a mysterious benefactor, known as “Mr. C,” he gave her $50, which enabled her to register at UCLA. This act of kindness set the stage for her remarkable journey.

4. Broadway Breakthrough

Burnett’s star power shone through from the start. Despite struggling to find an agent, she created her showcase with fellow actresses, which led to 20 inquiries for agents. Her talent and determination secured her an audition with Rodgers and Hammerstein, which eventually landed her the lead role on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress.

5. The iconic roar of Tarzan

Known for her Tarzan roar, Burnett revealed it originated during childhood movie reenactments with her cousin. Unafraid to be unattractive and loud, she embraced her unique comedic style, leaving her mark on television.

6. Pulling the ear: a secret signal

While on “The Garry Moore Show,” Burnett developed a secret signal for her grandmother. A tug on the left ear meant, “Hi babysitter, I love you.” This heartfelt gesture continued on “The Carol Burnett Show” and became a cherished tradition.

7. Collaboration with Bob Mackie

Burnett’s collaboration with costume designer Bob Mackie was critical to the success of her series. Mackie, known for his creativity, designed iconic costumes, including the memorable draped dress in the “Went with the Wind” skit.

8. Character of the Enchantress

Burnett’s character “Charwoman”, shown in the show’s closing credits, became her trademark. The character faced controversy because it resembled a performance by vaudeville performer Ray Bourbon. Burnett even sued “Family Guy” for using it in an episode.

9. Firing Harvey Korman

Despite the successful collaboration, Burnett faced a challenging decision during the seventh season of her show. She fired Harvey Korman because of his rude behavior towards guest stars. Korman returned, showing a positive change and continued with the series until the 10th season.

10. She almost quit her own show

In 1972, feeling that the series was becoming stale, Burnett considered leaving. However, she revitalized it by hiring new writers, retiring some characters and adopting an adult comedy style, leading to iconic sketches such as “Went With the Wind” and “The Family.”

11. Challenges of a film career

Moving to film, Burnett faced challenges with the musical “Annie.” Jack Nicholson was initially considered for Daddy Warbucks, and the film initially struggled. However, Burnett’s performance as Miss Hannigan received praise, contributing to the film’s eventual success through videotape sales.

12. Three marriages and personal struggles

Burnett’s personal life included three marriages. Her second husband, Joe Hamilton, was a producer on “The Garry Moore Show” and later her own show. Burnett faced challenges with her daughters’ struggles with addiction, with daughter Carrie overcoming addiction but tragically passing away in 2002.

13. Custody and custody battle

In recent years, Burnett has faced a custody battle and won custody of her grandson due to her daughter Erin’s battle with addiction. Custody focuses on the child’s health, education and well-being while ensuring appropriate visitation with Erin.

14. Golden Globe in her honor

In 2018, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association introduced the Carol Burnett Special Achievement Award. The first Burnett Award winner’s contribution to television was celebrated, highlighting her groundbreaking achievements and lasting impact.

15. Tribute to Burnett’s achievements

Recognizing her pioneering career, Carol Burnett’s Golden Globe Awards recognize her more than 50 years of breaking barriers in comedy. Other recipients, including Ellen DeGeneres, Norman Lear and Ryan Murphy, have since received this prestigious award.

16. Lasting legacy and impact

Carol Burnett’s legacy extends beyond accolades and awards. Her comedic influence, dedication to authenticity and ability to connect with audiences have inspired generations of comedians. Burnett’s story reminds us that true greatness is measured not only by success but also by the positive impact on others.

Carol Burnett’s journey, marked by resilience, humor and genuine humanity, cements her as a true legend in the entertainment world. Her timeless contributions continue to bring joy and laughter to audiences around the world, leaving a lasting legacy that transcends generations.

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