She proved that women could be funny and keep us entertained for many years just like the men do. Comedy all of a sudden wasn’t just a man’s world. I was one of those geeks that watched her variety comedy show every week. It was a time when people like Carol Burnett existed to just make us laugh and not be so judgmental like all the stupid reality shows everywhere or what is worse, all the you stink go home judging shows. We shared the laughs then. No one got laughed at. It was better times on Television.
Back then she was the queen of comedy and her show ran for eleven years. It was a time when staying home on a Saturday night wasn’t so bad. We would watch her show and then go out. America had a regular date with Carol Burnett. Her show was on in almost every household with a TV. The TV executives turned her down once and said she was too loud for TV. America loved her loud Tarzan call for years. Now at 80 years old she hasn’t lost any of that larger than life charm.
What she has lost is her child who died from lung cancer. It has been more than 30 years her show went off the air. She occupied the largest studio for CBS in those days. Now the Price Is Right has cars for bid on the stage where she employed comics, variety acts, singers and dancers. A truly entertaining show; then. She was especially close to her audience by each night turning up the lights and answering questions from them and occasionally inviting someone up on stage for a kiss.
Out of all the seats in the audience there were three seats in the second row that meant the most to her. That is where her three daughters sat during the rehearsals; Jody, Erin and Carrie. Carrie, her oldest was beautiful with a Marilyn Monroe look about her. She also ended into a world of drug addiction. People Magazine at the time called it Carol Burnett’s nightmare. You don’t give up on your child. At the time Carol admits that at one point they weren’t speaking. A parent has to love their child enough to let them hate them.
Carrie eventually got clean and didn’t hate her Mother. She is the one child that followed in her mother’s footsteps and was a writer and actress and appeared in a movie with Carol, but not for long. In 2001 Carrie learned she had cancer. It is the subject of Carol Burnett’s latest book called Carrie and Me, A Mother-Daughter Love Story. Carol always wanted to be a writer when she was young anyway but never expected to have to write this book.
She takes us through all the emotions when you hear the news that you might outlive your child’s life. Carol writes,” We all went through disbelief, shock, then you get angry, then scared and so they were hoping that they might save one lung but then it went up to her brain.” Carrie died at just 38 years old. Now how can a funny woman ever be funny after that happens in your life?
You never get over it but you learn to cope, she says. You have no other choice. Reading about her childhood makes you wonder how she was ever able to laugh. She grew up in the middle of addiction and loss of life, always having to make the best of it somehow. Her father was always drunk and couldn’t hold a job. Her mother started to drink too in her thirties and then she became an alcoholic as well. Both parents died in their forties so Carol was forced to be raised by her grandmother. First in Texas where she was born and then in Hollywood where she grew up. They shared a one room apartment.
They lived on government assistance and saved some money so they could go to the movies where Carol learned everything she could about entertaining. She never thought she would be a star herself. She enrolled in UCLA to take English writing courses and found herself auditioning and getting parts in school plays and finding people laughing at how she would say her lines. She loved the interaction with the audience and soon everyone loved her too. The audience became her family.
Soon she had the leading role on Broadway in Once Upon A Mattress where she could be as goofy as she wanted to and became a comedic genius. We all need laughter when faced with disaster. We are human. Giant fleshy moist beings full of emotions. Let’s find a way to laugh as she did to balance out the disasters of life. Thanks carol Burnett.