A signal system with her grandmother caused one of Carol Burnett's earlobes to be longer than the other

Because she couldn't say ''hi nanny'' on TV, Burnett and her grandmother came up with another way to communicate through the screen.

If you were a fan of The Carol Burnett Show when it was originally on the air between 1967 to 1978, you know how big of a role the studio audience played. The endless amounts of laughter was carried through millions of television screens every week, and that "live" feel was the heartbeat of the show throughout its run on television. 

While most tuned into the show for the laughs surrounding Burnett, her guests and the sketches, those weren't the only reasons a fan would want to be in the studio audience. 

When Burnett took the stage, often in a bright and loud show-stopping outfit, she generally gave the audience a preview of what was coming up that night, along with which celebrity guest would be featured. She herself, though it wasn't originally part of the plan, would warm up the crowd and take their questions. 

Not long after the show began, the interactions between Burnett and her audience became a segment of its own, as Burnett told stories and answered questions, which of course varied from episode to episode.

In the timeless show that featured Tim Conway in "The Dentist" sketch, widely considered to be one of the best of all-time, Burnett was asked "What time are you on in Chicago?" Burnett actually wasn't sure herself, but thankfully another fan was able to give her the answer, which she happily relayed back. 

For the next question, Burnett had a better answer. A fan asked her why she could so often be seen pulling down on her ear when she was on screen. 

"That's a signal to my grandmother, who raised me," Burnett responded. "When I first went to New York... and had my first job [on TV], she said 'will you say hello to me?'"

"I explained to her that we're not allowed to say 'hi nanny' you know, on television, so we worked out this signal of pulling the earlobe which meant 'hi, I'm fine, you're check is on the way,'" Burnett told the audience with a laugh. 

While telling the story to her audience, Burnett revealed her left earlobe was measured by a writer from Life Magazine and it had actually stretched longer than the other from pulling it so much over the years. After a while, Burnett's earlobes may not have been symmetrical anymore, but she wasn't worried about it, and she made an effort to get that tug in. 

"Everytime I was on TV I'd find a place to do this when I was on camera so that she would know I was thinking of her," Burnett told the Television Academy in 2003.

Burnett clarified she only pulled at her ear when she was on TV. 

She laughed, "I didn't go around pulling my ear just for the heck of it!" 

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17 Comments

DocForbin 27 days ago
The story I was told when I was a kid that it was Burnett's signal to the parents who were watching the show to put their kids to bed.
Andybandit 28 days ago
Wow, I didn't know that about Carol's earlobes. Tim Conway and Harvey Korman are so funny in their skits together.
BuckeyeBeth 28 days ago
“While telling the story to her audience, Burnett revealed her left earlobe was measured by a writer from Life Magazine and it had actually stretched longer than the other from pulling it so much over the years.”

The question is was this just Carol teasing and making a joke like she often did when warming up the audience with her pre-show chats, or was she actually serious? Personally I’m going with joking.

If not the next question would be was it noticeable or like just a fraction of a millimeter longer?
Sway BuckeyeBeth 28 days ago
Right, and if we all measured our earlobes, would they be exactly the same?
madvincent BuckeyeBeth 27 days ago
i've been pulling something for years and it never got bigger.........just saying lol.....it;s a joke ok lol
BuckeyeBeth madvincent 27 days ago
That was a pull my finger joke, right? 😏
madvincent BuckeyeBeth 27 days ago
YES.........and a noise would sound lol
cperrynaples 28 days ago
And i could have answered the question about when Carol was on Chicago: Since it's in the Central time zone, it would be an hour earlier than New York!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 28 days ago
I thought The Carol Burnett Show was taped @ CBS Television City, Los Angeles, California.
So wouldn't that be 2 hours ahead in Chicago. PT vs CT. Tricky question ?
Pacificsun cperrynaples 27 days ago
Yes, the Show was always taped.

The way it used to be, is that if the Network decided to air it at 9:00pm in New York, and wanted it to be shown simultaneously, that would be 8:00pm CST. I don't know if MeTV does it, but that's why two time zones are often shown within a Promo.

California (PST) delayed the airing until 9:00pm local time. Does anyone know about Hawaii, would it be 9:00pm their local time too?

I believe the idea behind airing the same Show within (or close to) the same Time Zones per region was to more consistently evaluate ratings.
LoveMETV22 28 days ago
Fun story. Thanks MeTV Staff for sharing. Always enjoy the audience segment Carol did as a warm up for the show. Cute that Carol had a signal system for her grandmother. 👂👂

However Carol shouldn't feel too bad as there are many animals with large ears.
daDoctah LoveMETV22 28 days ago
It's certainly turned out well for other performers....

Pacificsun LoveMETV22 27 days ago
LOVE the bunny!!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 27 days ago
Bunnies are always cute....Do you remember the Jackalope myth...some taxidermists. or maybe just hunters in general had fun with that one....
Runeshaper LoveMETV22 27 days ago
LOL most EXCELLENT!
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