Carol Burnett, whose full name is Carol Creighton Burnett, is an American actress, comedian, singer and writer. Carol Burnett’s career spans seven decades of television and she is best known for her groundbreaking comedy variety show, ‘The Carol Burnett Show,’ originally aired on CBS. It was among the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman and she has achieved success on stage, television and film in varying genres including dramatic and comedic roles. Burnett has also appeared on various talk shows and as a panelist on game shows.
Carol was born on April 26th, 1933, San Antonio, Texas.
Carol attended Hollywood High School and later studied theater and musical comedy at UCLA.
On December 15th, 1955, she got married to her college sweetheart, Don Saroyan but they divorced in 1962. On May 4th, 1963, Burnett got married again to a television producer Joe Hamilton who was a divorced father of eight and he had produced her 1962 Carnegie Hall concert. Joe later produced The Carol Burnett Show among other projects. The two had three daughters namely Carrie Hamilton, who was born on December 5, 1963 and unfortunately died on January 20, 2002 of pneumonia as a complication of lung and brain cancer. Carrie was an actress and singer. The other is Jody Hamilton, born on January 18, 1967. The last born is Erin Hamilton, born on August 14, 1968 and she is a singer. Burnett and Joe’s marriage ended in divorce in 1984.
Burnett together with other girls living at the Rehearsal Club, a boarding house for women who pursuing an acting career, put on The Rehearsal Club Revue on March 3, 1955, after spending her first year in New York working as a hat-check girl and failing to land on acting jobs. Burnett and her fellow colleagues mailed invitations to agents, who showed up together with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich, and this opened doors for many girls. In 1955, Carol was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show. Burnett played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to Burnett starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom Stanley from 1956 to 1957. She found herself unemployed for a short time, after Stanley. Carol eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number known as ‘I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles’.
Carol performed this number on both The Tonight Show, which hosted by Jack Paar and The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957. John Dulles was asked about her on Meet the Press and joked that he never discuss matters of the heart in public. During this time, Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television’s earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz. Just as she was achieving her first small successes, her mother died in 1957. Her first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress, for which Carol was nominated for a Tony Award. Carol became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, the same year, a job that lasted till 1962. She became a winner of an Emmy Award that year for her ‘Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series’ on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, though the most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who later became her signature alter-ego.
She finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (1962), with her success on the Moore Show, co-starring with her best friend Julie Andrews. The show producer was Bob Banner, director was Joe Hamilton, and writers were Mike Nichols and Ken Welch. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall became winners of an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music, and she won an Emmy for her performance. During this time, Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows including The Twilight Zone episode ‘Cavender Is Coming’. She starred in the Broadway musical ‘Fade Out Fade In’ in 1964 but she was forced to withdraw after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident. Burnett returned to the show but withdrew later to participate in a variety show, The Entertainers, opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart. Fade Out Fade In’s producers sued the actress for breach of contract after her absences from the popular show caused its failure, but the suit was later dropped.
She was the first celebrity to appear on the children’s series Sesame Street, on that series’ first episode on November 10th, 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, Carol also made occasional returns to the stage. She appeared at the Muny Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson in 1974. Eleven years later, Carol took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password, an association she maintained till early 1980s. Carol made several attempts at starting a new variety program in the 1980s and 1990s. Carol also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show’s ‘The Family’ sketches spinoff, Mama’s Family, as Burnett’s stormy character, Eunice Higgins. Carol played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno, which parodied the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest.
Burnett returned to television in the mid 1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You, playing Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman for which she won another Emmy Award. After an absence of 30 years, in 1995, Carol was back on Broadway in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. Burnett appeared in the Broadway revue Putting It Together, four years later. Burnett joined two-time Tony Award Winner in 2014, Brian Dennehy, on Broadway in A.R Gurney’s Love Letters. She had long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children. In 1983, Carol realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her. She played the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford, causing trouble for Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (her stepmother). Carol also made occasional appearances on the soap opera in each decade thereafter. In 1995, Burnett hosted a 25th-anniversary special about the show and made a brief cameo appearance as Verla Grubbs on the 5th January, 2005, the episode which celebrated the show’s 35th anniversary. Carol reprised her role as Grubbs in September 2011 as part of the series’ finale.
Burnett starred in TV films such as Seasons of the Heart (1994) and returned in 2005 to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in the movie version of Once Upon a Mattress. Carol guest-starred in season two of Desperate Housewives as Bree’s stepmother, Elanor Mason. She made a guest appearance on the Law & Order in 2009, the Special Victims Unit, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress. Carol guest-starred on an episode of Glee as the mother of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester in November 2010. Burnett has made a recurring role, traditionally on Thanksgiving-themed episodes, of Hawaii Five-0 as Steve McGarrett’s Aunt Debbie since 2013, until Aunt Deb succumbed from cancer in the January 15, 2016 episode.
The CBS aired The Carol Burnett Show in 2017, 50th Anniversary Special. The event featured Carol, original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, costume designer Bob Mackie, and special guests included Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Junior, Bill Hader, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bernadette Peters, Maya Rudolph and also Martin Short. Carol Burnett spoke about the adversity she endured, saying that They said it was a man’s game (Sid Caesar, Dean Martin, Milton Berle) because it had not been done. Though that does not mean it could not be done.” The Golden Globes created an award in her name, the Carol Burnett Award, for career achievement in television in 2019. She was also announced as the first recipient of the award. The Hollywood Foreign Press said in a statement that for over 50 years, comedy trailblazer Burnett has been breaking barriers while making us laugh. Steve Carell presented the award to her.
Carol Burnett Albums
-She Remembers How They Stopped The Show (1961). Label: Decca. LP, Digital.
-Julie and Carol At Carnegie Hall, J. Andrews and C. Burnett (1962). Label: Columbia Masterworks. LP, CD, Digital.
-Let Me Entertain You: Burnett Sings (1964). Label: Decca. LP, CD, Digital.
-Burnett Sings (1967). Label: RCA. LP, CD, Digital.
-Here’s Carol! Burnett Sings (1968). Label: Vocalion. LP, Digital.
-Together Again For The First Time, C. Burnett & M. Raye (1968). Label: Tetragrammaton Records. LP.
-Julie And Carol At Lincoln Center, J. Andrews and C. Burnett (1971). Label: Columbia Masterworks. LP, CD, Digital.
-Carol Featuring ‘If I Could Write A Song’ (1972). Label: Columbia. LP, CD, Digital.
-J. Andrews and C. Burnett, The CBS Television Specials (2012). Compilation of albums ‘Julie and Carol At Carnegie Hall’ and ‘Julie And Carol At Lincoln Center’. Label: Masterworks Broadway. CD, Digital.
Carol Burnett Books
-Mendoza, G.; Burnett, C. (1975). What I Want to Be When I Grow Up. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0671221591.
-Burnett, C. (1986). One More Time : A Memoir