Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas to Jodie and Louise Burnett. Both of her parents, particularly her father, suffered from alcoholism, and at a young age she was left with her grandmother. Burnett moved to Hollywood, California with her grandmother where she graduated from Hollywood High School and then attended University of California, Los Angeles, eventually working her way up through bit parts on TV.
After several minor appearances in theater and television, Carol Burnett was first noticed in the mid-1950s with her comic novelty love song "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles" (Dulles was the current Secretary of State at the time). She also appeared during this time in an NBC sitcom, Stanley, with Buddy Hackett, which lasted one season.
Burnett's first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress. In the same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, which she would continue until 1962.
She won an Emmy in 1962 for her "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series" on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably a put-upon cleaning woman. With her success on the Moore show, she finally came to headliner status and appeared in the 1962 special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews.Before getting her variety show, Burnett also appeared as a panelist on the game show Password ? an association she maintained until the early 1980s.
Comedy legend Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett from the beginning, and after having the younger performer guest star on The Lucy Show a number of times, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom, to be produced by Desilu. Burnett declined the offer, however, deciding instead to put together a variety show. The two remained close friends until Ball's death in 1989. Every year, Ball sent Burnett a bouquet of flowers on her birthday; ironically Ball died on Burnett's 56th birthday, and one of the last things she did was to send Burnett flowers.
The hour-long The Carol Burnett Show debuted in 1967, and was a huge success, garnering 22 Emmy Awards. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (Conway was a guest player until the 9th season, interview on ET May 22, 2006), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence (who was cast partly because she looked like a young Burnett). The network did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety but Burnett's contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. (Interview on ET May 22, 2006).
Burnett became known for her Tarzan yell during many shows, and for ending each show by tugging her ear, which was a message to the grandmother who had raised her. The show ceased production in 1978, and is generally regarded as the last successful major network variety show, to date. It continues to have success in syndicated reruns.
After the show ended, Burnett diversified into a variety of roles. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie Friendly Fire. Her other film work includes The Four Seasons, Annie, and Noises Off.
During the filming of Annie, Burnett accompanied her daughter to an oral surgeon, who suggested surgery to Burnett lengthen her jaw. Burnett recalled on an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" that she was called back to reshoot some scenes for Annie and director John Huston wanted her to start where she leaves a closet. She told Huston that she would then be going in the closet with one chin and out with another. She said Huston told her to "come out of the closet determined".
After a few more attempts at starting a new variety program, Burnett returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You when she played Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt).
Burnett was a recipient of the 2003 Kennedy Center Honors at the age of 70.
Burnett has long been a vocal fan of the soap opera All My Children. She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her. Burnett suddenly found herself playing the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds), and raising hell for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (the late Ruth Warrick).
She hosted a 25th anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005 episode celebrating the 35th anniversary of the program. Due to scheduling conflicts, the scene was shot on the Los Angeles set of General Hospital instead of the New York City set where All My Children is taped.
Burnett most recently appeared on the popular television program Desperate Housewives playing Eleanor, the cold stepmother of lead character Bree (portrayed by Marcia Cross).
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Carol Burnett is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics including Comedy, Entertainers and Celebrity. The estimated speaking fee range to book Carol Burnett for live events is $100,000 - $200,000, and for virtual events $100,000 - $200,000. Carol Burnett can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Vicki Lawrence. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Carol Burnett for an upcoming event.
Carol Burnett faced a lot of bullsh*t on the road to becoming a comedy icon, simply because she was a woman. Luckily, she never backed down.
In this July 22, 2013, file photo, actress and comedian Carol Burnett arrives at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in Los Angeles.
Carol Burnett – comedic trailblazer, actor, singer, dancer, producer and author – has been named the 52nd recipient of SAG-AFTRA’s highest tribute: the SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment.
When Carol Burnett recorded the audio version of her memoir "Carrie and Me," about her late daughter Carrie Hamilton, the actress-comedian sensed she had ...
One of the perks of being the doyenne of TV comedy is you get to hang out with the president. This happened recently, and not for the first time, for Carol Burnett.
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