8 things you never knew about 'The Carol Burnett Show'
One of America's funniest shows had a few secrets to its success.
Image: The Everett Collection
For eleven years, Carol Burnett made people around the country laugh out loud with The Carol Burnett Show. Well, it wasn't just a laugh, was it? It was more like a sidesplitting cackle that made you double over. That's how funny Burnett was, along with costars Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway.
Sit back, smile, and enjoy these eight facts about the incredibly groundbreaking show.
1. Vicki Lawrence was only 18 when the show started.
Despite not having very much experience, Lawrence got a part on the show because she wrote Burnett a fan letter while in high school about their physical resemblance. In the letter, Lawrence also mentioned she was competing in the "Miss Fireball" contest in Inglewood, California. Burnett showed up to support the pageant queen, and even urged her to audition for a role on the show.
2. Each episode was taped twice.
Despite having the feel of a live TV program, each episode was taped twice in front of different studio audiences. That meant that if an actor flubbed a line in both takes, it was still included in the final edited episode.
3. Burnett's famous ear tug had a special meaning.
Every week, viewers watched Burnett tug at her ear lobe at the end of the show. The gesture wasn't a stage cue, but rather a message for her grandmother saying "Hello, I love you." Even though Burnett's grandmother passed away while the show was still on air, the star continued to tug her ear.
4. One famous designer had a lot of influence...
Bob Mackie is best known for designing dramatic and elegant gowns for celebrities like Cher and Liza Minnelli, but he also had a major part in some of the show's funniest moments. Mackie was behind the idea of Burnett wearing the curtain rod dress with the drapes, making the moment infinitely more hilarious. In fact, some consider the curtain rod dress his most famous creation. Mackie also found the dress for Eunice on "The Family" at a thrift store.
5. ... and so did Burnett's husband.
Burnett's husband, Joe Hamilton, also influenced the program in a couple of ways. He wrote the show's ending theme song, and also created the Q&A session to warm up the audience at the beginning of the program. Hamilton also served as an executive producer.
6. Dick Van Dyke was a cast member.
Although Burnett was the star of the show, she was supported by an incredibly talented cast that included Lawrence, Korman, Waggoner, and Conway. When Korman left after the tenth season, Dick Van Dyke replaced him. The lack of chemistry among the cast members and Van Dyke proved to be a disaster, which is why he left after three months.
7. Conway's famous dentist sketch was based on a true story.
The sketch where Conway accidentally numbs his arm with Novocain was based on an experience he had in real life. While getting work done on his teeth, Conway's dentist accidentally injected his thumb with the drug. In 2013, Conway told Conan O'Brien that the sketch made Korman wet himself from laughing so hard.
8. Mr. Tudball could have been a spin-off.
The Carol Burnett Show's famous recurring sketch called "The Family" inspired the popular spin-off Mama's Family. Another character that could have been the lead in a spin-off series was Mr. Tudball. Executives approached Conway about the idea, but he turned them down because he didn't see the potential for a storyline and Burnett wouldn't be there to play Ms. Wiggins.
9. The show never ranked in the top 10.
The Carol Burnett Show is consistently ranked on critics' lists as one of the best television programs of all time. However, the series was not a ratings juggernaut when it aired from 1967 to 1978. Although the show peaked at No. 13 in the Nielsen ratings during the 1969-1970 season, it consistently ranked in the 20s for the first nine seasons.