Series: The Carol Burnett Show
"I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, 'So long.'"
A hit Variety Show
, running for 11 seasons (1967-1978). The show followed a very simple format of comedy sketches, TV and movie parodies, and musical numbers. What set it apart was how off the wall the actors and writers would take things. Basically anything went as long as it was funny (and could air on TV, of course). Many also consider it to be the first comedy variety show centered around a woman.
The regular cast initially consisted of Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner; Tim Conway (who'd appeared numerous times as a guest) succeeded Waggoner in Season 8, while Dick Van Dyke
replaced Korman for the 11th and final season. One of the more popular recurring sketches spun off into the sitcom Mama's Family
Provides Examples Of:
- Accidental Misnaming: A non-malicious example: One "Family" sketch has the character of Mavis Danton (played by guest star Madeline Kahn) constantly refer to Eunice as "Bernice".
- Affectionate Parody: Given the type of show this is, the bulk of its film and TV parodies firmly place themselves in deconstruction territory.
- Author Avatar: The Charwoman.
- Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: "The Dentist Sketch" in which a hapless dentist (Tim Conway) keeps accidentally injecting various parts of his body with Novocaine.
- Break the Haughty: Eunice. Jesus Christ, Eunice.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A literal example.
- The Chew Toy: Most of Tim's and many of Carol's characters, mainly the Oldest Man and Stella Toddler, respectively. And yes, the two characters did cross over.
- Chroma Key: Used (and Played for Laughs) in some closing mini-musicals from later seasons, like "Beach Blanket Boo-Boo".
- Corpsing: Tim Conway was notorious for breaking up the others on the show. In many of the sketches featuring Conway and Harvey Korman, it was all Korman could do to get through it without collapsing. And keep in mind, it wasn't like this was live: the show was taped. Conway was just that funny. Causing Carol Burnett herself to lose it was a major feat, but Conway accomplished it several times. (Here, for instance.)
- It got to the point that the cast would have a weekly pool to see how long it would take Tim Conway to make someone (mainly Harvey Korman) break character.
- Once in a while, Carol or Vicki would get even with Tim by making him corpse... for example, during the "Flasher" sketch, which was less an actual sketch than a giant prank on Tim.
- In a Behind The Scenes special Carol mentioned they would tape the show twice, and use the copy with the lesser amount of corpsing.
- Costume Porn: Bob Mackie did virtually all the outfits on the show, from the grand to the silly.
- Crazy-Prepared: Initially, the director in "Rhoda Dimple":
Rhoda Dimple: Wait a minute, hold it, von Megaphone Mouth, we ain't through with the picture yet!
Director: I want to thank the sound department for their excellent work...
Rhoda Dimple: I'm talkin' to you!
Director: The lighting department for their excellent contribution...
(Rhoda kicks the director in the shin, but he doesn't react to it)
Director: The Los Angeles Dodgers for the shin guards...
(Rhoda punches him in the gut, but this makes a metallic sound)
Director: ...and the chest protector!
(Rhoda angrily bites his hand)
Director: And also Dr. Dondelhoit for the rabies shot!
- Cross Over: One "Family" sketch had Eunice be a contestant on The Gong Show, with appearances by Chuck Barris, Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan, and Allen Ludden. This is especially brilliant when you remember that Ludden's wife (now-widow) is Betty White, who played Eunice's sister Ellen in the "Family" sketches and on Mama's Family.
- Curtain Clothing: The famous parody of the "curtain dress" from Gone with the Wind.
Rat: That gown is gorgeous.
Starlet: Thank you, I saw it in the window and just couldn't resist it.
- Disaster Movie: Parodied in several sketches, most notably "Disaster '75", which skewers the Airport series six years before Airplane.
- Dysfunctional Family: Take a wild guess.
- Early Installment Weirdness: "The Family". Any Mama's Family fans unfamiliar with the sketches are likely to be surprised at Mama's nastier demeanor (though it did continue into Mama's Family's early episodes) and much of the focus being on Eunice, who's presented here as more sympathetic. Also, in addition to Eunice and Ellen, a number of other Harper children are introduced, but are never seen again, most notably Philip Harper (Roddy McDowall), who was originally the focus of the first sketch.
- Ending Theme: Sung by Carol herself.
- The Eponymous Show
- Fancy Dinner: A notable example being with the Harper-Higgins. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues.
- Follow the Leader: When CBS aired the reunion special, it proved to be a stunning ratings success. CBS and other networks promptly went out of their way to produce show retrospectives to cash in.
- Funny Foreigner: Mr. Tudball (and by extension Mrs. Tudball).
- Get a Hold of Yourself Man: "Went With the Wind" has a running gag in which Sissy panics about everything, until Starlet slaps her. Eventually, Sissy slaps herself to calm down. At the end of the sketch, Starlet starts panicking, until Sissy slaps her.
- Girl Scouts Are Evil: A recurring sketch with Carol playing a girl scout who blackmails people into buying lots of cookies. One of those people being played by Vincent Price.
- Groin Attack: In the "Lost in the Sahara" sketch, Tim Conway goes mad from the heat, takes out a gun and shoots Harvey Korman. Conway then sticks the gun down the front of his pants.... it goes off.
- Identical Stranger: During one Q&A intro, one audience member pointed out another audience member who bore an uncanny resemblance to Bea Arthur.
- Inept Talent Show Contestant: As mentioned, Eunice has a spot on The Gong Show and is so convinced that her singing talent will be her ticket away from her family that she does a lot of bridge-burning before the show. Bad idea.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Snow White and Prince Charming in a sketch set 15 years after their fairy tale ended. Snow White in particular got demoted from the Fairest Of Them All to #906.
Snow White: Oh, well that's up three over last week's chart!
- Memetic Hand Gesture: Carol's ear tug.
- Mock Cousteau: The "Jacques Too Close'' sketch staring Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Played straight in-universe by Shirley Temple parody Rhoda Dimple.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed
- Oh, Crap: Surprisingly averted in "The Little Foxies", a takeoff on The Little Foxes. Burnett's character, having supposedly become the last-surviving heir of her family, opens her late husband's safe, but instead of riches she's encountered by a loaded cannon. The resulting deadpan reaction is far more within My God, You Are Serious territory.
- Once a Season: Carol would always have her good luck charm in the form of Jim Nabors host the first episode of each season.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Take a wild guess.
- Playing Gertrude: Vicki Lawrence, most famously. Even better, a Hamlet musical sketch had her literally play this trope.
- Politician Guest Star: Then-Governor of California Ronald Reagan appeared onstage during one episode's question period.
- Precision F-Strike: What finally caused everyone to crack up in the famous "Elephant Story" blooper.
Vicki Lawrence: You sure that little asshole's through?
- Self-Deprecation: The ending to this sketch.
- Shotgun Wedding: Eunice and Ed are implied to have had this:
Eunice: (to Ed) It is time we satisfied [Mama's] curiosity! Go on! Go on, just tell her what happened that night that I went with you and then later on, we had to get married!
Mama: I get your drift, Eunice. Welcome to the club.
- Significant Monogram: At least one version of the Animated Credits Opening took the CBS in "From CBS Television City" and used the letters to write The Carol Burnett Show.
- Soap Opera: Parodied in the recurring sketch "As the Stomach Turns".
- Spin-Off: As mentioned, Mama's Family.
- Split-Screen Phone Call: Done masterfully in the "Hotel Operator" sketch, where Carol fields a series of exchanges between several hotel guests and a local tart (Vicki). Veers into The Operators Must Be Crazy as Carol gets intrigued.
- Stop Trick: In one sketch, Carol Burnett plays a bored housewife trying to crash a party next door. She goes into the bedroom in a bathrobe and curlers, and seconds later emerges completely dressed, coiffed, and made-up. Slightly averted in that the camera angle did change, but the effect was the same.
- Syndication Title: Carol Burnett and Friends, which edited the shows down to a half-hour by omitting the musical numbers.
- Til Murder Do Us Part: Played straight and/or parodied in several sketches, including this one. Most of these attempts go as well as you'd expect.
- Title Drop: Twice in the Gone With the Wind parody.
Brashley: It went with the wind.
Starlet: What wind?
Starlet: Well, that's pretty, but it doesn't answer my question!
- The second instance occurs between Rat and Sissy.
- Unlimited Wardrobe
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: The ending to this sketch.
- Variety Show
- Waxing Lyrical: A few characters in "Went With the Wind" quote folk songs. One instance, in which Rat recites "Dixie", gets lampshaded when Sissy suggests setting those words to music.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: Nora Desmond, Carol's spoof of Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond.
- World of Ham: "Went With the Wind".