Who Is Carol Burnett?
Comedian Carol Burnett became popular through television guest appearances and specials before receiving her own comedy-variety program, The Carol Burnett Show, in 1967. The show ran for 11 seasons. Burnett has also appeared in a number of feature films and on Broadway. She published her autobiography, One More Time, in 1986. In 2013, she became the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, one of the most respected awards given to the creative minds who influence American culture with their art.
Carol Creighton Burnett was born on April 26, 1933, in San Antonio, Texas, to Joseph and Ina Louise Burnett. After her parents divorced in the late 1930s, Burnett moved with her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White, to a small apartment in Hollywood, California. She attended Hollywood High School, graduating in 1951.
After studying theater arts and English at the University of California, Los Angeles, as an aspiring playwright, Burnett left school early and made her way to New York City with her boyfriend, Don Saroyan, in hopes of breaking into acting.
Burnett made her first television appearance in the early 1950s with a short stint on The Winchell-Mahoney Show, a children's TV program. Soon after, she began co-starring with Buddy Hackett on the sitcom Stanley (1956-57). In 1959, Burnett became a regular on The Garry Moore Show. Over the years, she was also featured on occasional CBS specials. Already a popular performer, she got her own comedy-variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, in 1967.
'The Carol Burnett Show'
The Carol Burnett Show usually opened with a question-and-answer session with the audience, and the silliness ensued — broad comedy skits and sketches, with Burnett using her expressive face to great humorous ends. The show ran for 11 seasons, leaving the air in 1978. Burnett later returned to TV with the comedy series Carol & Company in 1990 and The Carol Burnett Show in 1991. However, neither effort lasted long.
Film and Stage Career
In addition to her hit television show, Burnett has appeared in a number of feature films, including Pete 'n' Tillie (1972), The Front Page (1974), Annie (1982), Noises Off (1992) and Post Grad (2009), and performed the voices of animated characters in films like The Trumpet of the Swan (2001) and Horton Hears a Who! (2008).
Burnett has also done a lot of stage work. She made her Broadway debut in the musical Once Upon a Mattress in 1959 and went on to appear in a few other Broadway shows, including Moon Over Buffalo (1995-1996) and Putting It Together (1999-2000). Her 1986 autobiography, One More Time: A Memoir, provided the source material for the play Hollywood Arms, which was performed on Broadway from October 2002 to January 2003. Burnett co-wrote the piece with her oldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton.
Over her decades-long career, Burnett has won numerous honors, including American Comedy Awards, Emmy and Golden Globe awards, the 1980 Women in Film Crystal Award, the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Burnett received a unique honor in 2009. One of her costumes from The Carol Burnett Show was added to the collection of the Smithsonian's American History Museum. The dress selected was from her famed spoof of Gone With the Wind. The following year, she looked back on her career with the autobiography This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection.
Burnett also made a guest appearance on the hit TV series Desperate Housewives in 2006, and appeared in roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Glee in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
In recent years, Burnett has appeared at theaters across the country. Each performance is an unscripted event with Burnett forming a dialogue with the audience. The inspiration for this style of show comes from the question and answer session she used to do at the beginning of each episode of The Carol Burnett Show.
In 2013, Burnett won one of greatest honors bestowed on comedians. She received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center Honors held that October. Tina Fey was among those who helped celebrate Burnett's work at the event. According to the Huffington Post, Fey told Burnett that "I fell in love with sketch comedy watching your show, and you proved sketch comedy is a good place for women." Just months later in 2013, Burnett became a recipient of Kennedy Center Honors.
Burnett has been married three times. She first wed Don Saroyan in 1955. They split up in 1962. The following year, Burnett married Joe Hamilton. The couple had three daughters—Carrie, Jody and Erin—before divorcing in 1984. Burnett has been married to Brian Miller since 2001.
In 2002, Burnett suffered a devastating loss when her oldest daughter Carrie died of cancer. She later established the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse in her honor. More than a decade after Carrie's passing, Burnett explored her relationship with her late daughter in the 2013 memoir Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story. The book details Carrie's struggles with addiction and her valiant fight against her cancer.
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