Happy Birthday Carol Burnett!
On April 26, 1933 one of the funniest women in history was born, Carol Burnett.
Burnett was born in San Antonia, Texas but moved only a few years later to Hollywood, California with her grandmother. After high school Burnett attended the University of California, Los Angeles, studying English and theater arts. Burnett was ready to break into acting; she left school a year early to move to New York.
Slowly but surely Burnett started making guest appearances on CBS shows and specials. From 1956-57 Burnett co-starred on the sitcom Stanley. Two years later she became a regular on the Garry Moore Show.
According to Burnett when she pitched the idea CBS told her that having a show of her own was not likely, reasoning that it was a mans job to do. She would not back down. CBS wanted her to have a show more similar to a sitcom but she pushed for a sketch comedy show because that was her passion. Finally she succeeded. Burnett became the first female host of a TV sketch and variety show, The Carol Burnett Show.
The show would run for eleven years from 1967-1978. Do yourself a favor and go watch as many YouTube videos as you can from the show. It is incredibly hilarious. The best part of being sick when I was younger was being able to stay home and watch reruns of I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. (And I would be lying if I said I don’t do that from time to time when I’m home sick now).
After the show ended Burnett continued to wear many hats: actress, writer, and comedian. Winning American Comedy Awards, Emmy’s, Golden Globes, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and numerous other awards Burnett proved just because the show was over didn’t mean she was going anywhere.
Being a woman in comedy wasn’t always easy. Burnett has since talked about this difficulty, “if a woman said wait a minute we’ve got to stop here, or I don’t like this sketch here or whatever she would be a bitch. If a man did it, if Jackie Gleason did it, he would be Jackie.”
In the early eighties when the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was trying to be passed again Burnett publicly voiced her political beliefs for the first time. She began attending meetings and speaking out in favor of the ERA saying that it just made sense for men and women to have the same legal rights, and be paid the same wages for the same work. It was after this Burnett became more comfortable with speaking out on other issues. After her oldest daughter, Carrie, had admitted to drug addiction issues Burnett sought treatment and went public with the story. She hoped to connect with people going through similar situations with family. This event pushed her to publicly rally for stricter drug laws in the United States.
Despite the struggle Burnett came through as a trailblazer and inspiration for women in comedy. This fact was made apparent in 2013 when she was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Tina Fey was quoted telling Burnett, “I fell in love with sketch comedy watching your show, and you proved sketch comedy is a good place for women.”
For an interview Carol Burnett was asked to give advice for younger women, advice I want to follow:
You have got to have the fire in your belly. If you really think you can do it just keep going and don’t take the setbacks too easily
Happy Birthday Carol Burnett!