Harvey Korman didn't think acting was fun, but felt he was destined for it

For an actor who didn't like acting, Harvey Korman sure did it well.

Comedian and actor Harvey Korman can be seen in crazy costumes, with various accents and portraying many different characters on The Carol Burnett Show.

Korman co-starred alongside Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence to deliver jokes and hilarious sketches for 245 episodes. His most iconic sketch was "The Dentist," which originally aired in 1969.

In a 1971 interview with Green Bay Press-Gazette, Korman said that despite his success, putting on a variety show wasn't all just singing and dancing.

"Golf is fun. Reading is fun. Playing with your children is fun... acting is not fun," he said. "I don't enjoy acting. It's the most difficult thing. If there's anything worse than not acting, it's acting. Once I'm out there and on it's ok, but working up to it is painful."

Before being on The Carol Burnett Show, Korman was stuck with small roles in shows such as The Red Skelton Hour. His big break would not be until The Danny Kaye Show in 1965. In the third season of The Danny Kaye Show, producer Joe Hamilton and his wife, Carol Burnett, began to coordinate plans for the proposed Carol Burnett Show.

Korman spent his career being billed on other people's shows, which gave him the title of "the second-best banana in show business."

Even with his love-hate relationship with acting, he made sure he didn't give anyone the wrong impression. Korman loved working on the series.

Korman has won four primetime Emmy awards, including an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy-Variety for The Carol Burnett Show in 1974. For not enjoying acting, he sure seemed to be good at it. 

"Being an actor is a schizophrenic thing, with the reality and unreality," he said. "One period I was only comfortable on stage. That's the reality."

During the time of this interview, Korman was busy balancing multiple projects, including the ABC movie Suddenly Single. 

"When you're in a good show, one that works, to make a move away from it is something you have to give a lot of thought to," he said. 

However, Korman had no intentions of leaving The Carol Burnett Show. The series gave him the freedom to try new characters, make people laugh and do what he disliked most: acting.

"You're obviously able to do things on stage that you can't do otherwise," he said. "You can be loud. You can show bravado... you can't do these things in life, but these are all part of me. I don't feel that I'm hiding behind a mask. I'm just using another part of me. I'm surprised when people say I'm versatile because I just see me."

Korman was originally from Chicago, where he said he'd been acting since the beginning. With all those years of acting under his belt, we are sure we'd get tired of it too. But thankfully, Korman never quit his day job.

"I guess I was destined to be a character actor," he said.

Watch The Carol Burnett Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 11 PM
Sundays at 10:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

8 Comments

JL1965 16 months ago
One of the funniest guys I’ve ever known .. Absolutely BRILLIANT in Blazing Saddles
MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
I can’t understand why he would continue in a job he didn’t really like. For his whole life. I can’t imagine waking up and dreading going to work when I was in my twenties. I would have quit and moved on.
Pacificsun MrsPhilHarris 16 months ago
Am not disputing the Story itself, well-done as usual by the MeTV Staff writers. But in reading what is reported to be saying, he's speaking in contradictions.

No. 1 you can't be in the Industry and hate what you're doing. It's brutal enough going through the auditions and being rejected all the time.

Here's the central point of what he was describing:

"The series gave him the freedom to try new characters, make people laugh and do what he disliked most: acting."

If we interpret "acting" as a state of not being himself, maybe he was uncomfortable with that reality.

And yet he talks about the opportunity involved:

"You're obviously able to do things on stage that you can't do otherwise," he said. "You can be loud. You can show bravado... you can't do these things in life,...."

".... but these are all part of me. I don't feel that I'm hiding behind a mask. I'm just using another part of me. I'm surprised when people say I'm versatile because I just see me."

So he's unable to attribute a part of his talent (versatility) to himself. Meaning, that he actually is, just being a part himself, like displaying an aspect of his personality (silly, and comic physicality like what Lucille Ball did).

Maybe he didn't really know how to express or describe whatever frustration was really going on. Perhaps he regretted not being taken more seriously, or as first choice for a dramatic role. But then again, if was offered to do so, would require the kind of acting which he seemed to be rebelling against.

I would chalk up that particular interview, as Harvey Korman thinking out loud. And not really catching that it probably wasn't making any sense to the reader.

Just my humble opinion.
MrsPhilHarris Pacificsun 16 months ago
Could be. 🤔
Sway 16 months ago
Always enjoyed Harvey’s acting.
LoveMETV22 16 months ago
Thanks MeTV. Interesting story. How fortunate we were to have Harvey Korman and Tim Conway. Wouldn't have called him" "the second-best banana in show business", just another ingredient in the fruit salad.
🍌🍈🍏🍓🍉🍍🍑🍇
RustleCrow LoveMETV22 16 months ago
I think they got it backwards and meant to write "the best second-banana in show business", which makes more sense.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?