I was born in the wrong decade; everybody who knows me will back me up on that fact. This time gap was never more obvious than when I was a kid. While other children were watching cartoons and arguing over who got to be the pink Power Ranger I was watching black and white TV shows on Nick-at-Nite and repeating one-liner catch phrases that hadn’t been used in 20 years. It’s safe to say I was a bit of a unique kid.
It was during this personal TV renaissance that I discovered the beautiful, majestic, and all around hilarious she-hero of Carol Burnett… and I was never the same!
Now most of us know the lovely Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan from the original musical Annie.
Oh Annie, which we all grew up singing along to in our living rooms… right? Anyone else? This wasn’t just me (right?) singing Hard Knock Life into a hairbrush while in my Care Bear jammies?
But what you may not know about the extraordinary Miss Burnett is that she also pioneered her own sketch comedy show rightly titled The Carol Burnett Show, which ran from 1967 to 1978 (11 seasons!!), and it was perfect and hysterical and all that is wonderful and good in this world! In honor of the marvelous lady’s birthday today, here are all the reasons we adore Carol Burnett.
She proved that women can be funny at a time where that wasn’t obvious
I know that this may sound obvious today in a world where women are currently DOMINATING the comedy scene—hi Amy Schumer—but in the ’60s and ’70’s when this show was made women in comedy were a rarity. Comedy was man-centric and women tended to be relegated to secondary, stereotyped roles. But that wasn’t the case on The Carol Burnett Show where the female characters drove the program. They were upfront and bold, and most importantly, they were hilarious!
She didn’t take herself too seriously, but she still had dignity
Comedy is an art (yeah, I said it) and it takes a confident person to perform it. I say that because so much of comedy is personal and vulnerable, be it either physical comedy or just poking fun at yourself. Carol Burnett did both with an endearing dignity that just made the world fall more in love with her every second. She was fearless and taught me about respecting myself, but never taking myself too seriously.
A good girl gang is crucial
Her show was filled with the most famous guest stars possibly ever (including Rock Hudson, Cher, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Betty White and about a bazillion others), but it mainly consisted of only four regular cast members. Aside from our leading lady there was Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway (who you may recognize from EVERYTHING). They made the show a family and their work together was perfection. Surround yourself with great people who challenge you and make you better at what you do and the results will be amazing.
She loved her fans endlessly
The show opened each week with Carol herself coming on stage and speaking to her live audience, even answering a few of their questions. She was never too big or too important to engage with her fans and make them feel welcome, appreciated and important. She was approachable and loving. And speaking of love and kindness, who could forget her trademark sign-off ear tug, which was a special message between her and the grandmother who raised her. I mean come on, how cute is that?
Her hard work helped every female comedian out
I believe every female comedian, actress and human person owes Carol Burnett a huge thanks. She paved the way in a heavily male industry by stepping out, working hard, performing boldly, taking chances and SUCCEEDING LIKE A BOSS! Every movement needs pioneers and Carol Burnett served in that capacity for generations of women following with voices that needed to be heard. Her work was comedy but her impact was so much broader than laughs.
So thank you Carol Burnett, for so many wonderful moments and for the progress you made for us all.
[Image via CBS]