Carol Burnett recalls fighting for her comedy variety show to be aired

The legendary actress shared that a CBS vice president didn't believe in The Carol Burnett Show.

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Imagine a world where The Carol Burnett Show didn't exist. Thankfully it'll never be a reality, but there was a brief moment when Carol Burnett had to fight to get the show approved.

The story has been heard numerous times; however, the legendary actress recently went a little more into detail on the encounter. 

During an interview with the Dear Multi-Hyphenate Podcast, the 89-year-old recalled the moment she signed a decade-long contract with CBS after her departure from The Garry Moore Show. "CBS offered me a contract to stay with them for ten years where I would be obligated to do one special a year -- an hour-long special a year and two guest appearances on some of their sitcoms."

Her agent was also able to secure a stipulation in the contract, which promised that whenever Burnett was ready to 'push the button' on her own show, CBS would have to air 30 episodes no matter how they felt. Yet, the decision had to be made within the first five years.

"Within the first five years, if I, Carol, wanted to do a comedy variety show, CBS would have to put it on the air for 30 shows," she said. "Fair play, that if I 'push that button,' they would have to put it on air whether they wanted to or not."

It wasn't until the last week in the fifth year of the contract that Burnett felt that it was time. She called the CBS Vice President, who was in New York then, to pitch her idea and ultimately 'push the button.' He did not remember the agreement, though.

"And he said, 'what button?' and I said, 'You know, where I get to do 30 comedy variety shows.' He said, 'Well, let me get back to you," Burnett said, revisiting the conversation. The vice president called her back the next day and told her that 'comedy variety is a man's game... it's not for you, girl."

He even named a list of men who excelled in those varieties and gave her another idea instead to join a sitcom called Here's Agnes. Yet, Burnett didn't back down, revealing to the executive that she wanted her show and nothing else. "I don't want to be on Anges every week. I want to have an hour-long show... I want guest stars; I want music; I want dancers; I want singers; I want sketch comedy..."

Although they did not have faith in the show, Burnett was able to get started, making fun a priority on set regardless of what would happen after the 30 episodes.

The Carol Burnett Show went on to produce 276 shows through 11 seasons. According to TV Guide and Time Magazine, it's one of the greatest shows of all time.

She showed how imperative it is for women in television or film to stand up for themselves. Her dedication to being a leader, talent and popularity proved Burnett was destined to have her show.

Watch The Carol Burnett Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 11 PM
Sundays at 10:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
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timothys71 20 months ago
You just don't find shows like that on TV anymore. As glad as I am that MeTV carries the Carol Burnett Show, I would love to see it in its original hour-long format. My guess is that the show's distributor, for whatever reason, has chosen not to release it for rebroadcast in that format.
MichaelVegas 20 months ago
That was one of the best comedy shows of all time, my brother also remembers it, but not for the fond feelings I have, being the older brother, I use to sit on him to make him watch it (We had one TV)
LalaLucy 20 months ago
In finally getting to see the early episodes I'd only heard about from my mom and grandma, I have been a bit surprised. I feel like it actually took some time for them to warm up. However, once the show hit its stride, some of the funniest moments in TV happened. So glad this dear lady proved the powers that be wrong. 🙂
JosephScarbrough 20 months ago
Women have always had an unfair advantage in the world of entertainment compared to men, and that, unfortunately, has been something that's carried on even into more recent years. A number of former female SNL castmembers have mentioned how producers always treated them differently from their male counterparts, and even with a show like WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?, everybody always thought Kathy Greenwood was "the weakest link" because she never did much when she was on the show, but she's said it's because the producers put her under a lot of restrictions - even Colin Mochrie and his wife have admitted their producers were always unfair with the women on their show.
The current version of "Whose Line..." (airing on the CW) is hosted by a woman (Aisha Tyler). I find it interesting that Drew Carey, who hosted the ABC version of that show and now hosts "The Price Is Right) is not on the CW version, but Wayne Brady is still a regular despite being the host of the current version of "Let's Make A Deal", which airs right before TPIR on CBS.


LOCATION: If you're playing Trivia (don't peek at answers first)

tootsieg 20 months ago
Very good story. I am glad CB did not take no for an answer. What a show!!!
Beta6 20 months ago
I LOVED that show...still do; except I am in bed when it airs here where I am. I have laughed harder at the comedy sketches than any other show I have seen to this time. Carol Burnett is the absolutel queen of comedy and her personality shines through all of it like the sun. She chose the guest stars and her crew with, to me, perfection. Tim, Harvey, Lyle, and certainly Vicky Lawrence. Best comedy show to me, ever.
JimmyD 20 months ago
This is another show that I loved as a kid but find it nearly unwatchable now.
bdettlingmetv JimmyD 20 months ago
Hate to say it but I tend to agree. Watched it faithfully as a late 'tween and young teenager and had a great time. Very self-indulgent show, but at the time that was different. As soon as "Hogan's Heroes" wraps up I'm scrolling through the on-screen guide to see what else is on. If it has good guests I'll stick around for a bit, but sooner or later I'm off to watch something else.
CoreyC 20 months ago
Conway and Korman was one of the top comedic duos.
StrayCat 20 months ago
People should watch her very first episode. Carol addressed the audience by beginning with: Before we get started, are there any questions or comments you may have? To my knowledge, this was never done before and you can hear murmurs and fidgeting from the audience members until one brave person broke the ice and asked a question, others followed. The rest is history.
LoveMETV22 20 months ago
Always funny to watch the Actors on " The Carol Burnett Show. " as they try not to laugh in skits.
CoreyC LoveMETV22 20 months ago
Korman was a better looking woman than Bea Arthur.
CoreyC LoveMETV22 20 months ago
The best skit was The Elephant Story a Family skit. Vicki had Tim cracking up when she said I'm waiting for that asshole to finish. Look it up on Youtube.
StrayCat CoreyC 20 months ago
I always liked her continuing soap "As the Stomach Turns". I believe there were something like 29 of those episodes throughout her show's 11 year run.
musicman37 CoreyC 20 months ago
Harvey Korman was such a talent. Carol once said that if you put any actor in a dress, you'd have a man in a dress. You put Harvey in a dress and you've got a woman.
justjeff 20 months ago
LoveMETV22 20 months ago
Excellent story. Thanks MeTV staff. If the time stamp is correct on the pod-cast link, ( and a very interesting podcast to listen to) it was just a few weeks ago. Good for you Carol Burnett, and fortunate for us.
MsRockford74 20 months ago
Love her, love her:) she is amazing!!
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