‘The Carol Burnett Show’: Carol Burnett Called This Co-Star a ‘Selfless Mentor’
Carol Burnett brought together a cast of talented comedians for her iconic sketch series The Carol Burnett Show. One member of the ensemble had no acting experience at the time, so this co-star shared some invaluable comedy tips with the aspiring performer.
Vicki Lawrence was discovered by Carol Burnett via mail
When Burnett was putting together her show in 1967, she received a letter from a 17-year-old high school senior named Vicki Lawrence. The young student bore a striking resemblance to Burnett and was asking for advice on breaking into show business. After Burnett contacted Lawrence and saw her on stage, she decided to give the young actor a try on her show and later commented on how she evolved in comedy.
“Vicki developed into a marvelous comedienne over the next 11 seasons, but it didn’t come naturally to her at first,” the famous redhead wrote in her book In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox. “She was 18 and really, really shy – so shy she often didn’t speak unless spoken to.”
Due to their lookalike status, Burnett put Lawrence in a skit where she played her sibling. Outside of that, the novice didn’t get much screen time at first.
“She played my kid sister in a sketch called ‘Carol & Sis’, which was a little ho-hum, as it turned out,” Burnett shared. “Beyond this, Vicki wasn’t on the show that much.”
Harvey Korman doubled as a mentor
Much to Burnett’s delight, she saw her co-star Harvey Korman take Lawrence under his wing. With his legendary talent as a comedy star, Korman was able to help Lawrence strengthen her acting skills.
“This was when my beloved colleague Harvey Korman worked his magic,” Burnett recalled, “and helped her with everything from character development to accents. You name it.”
Burnett praised her co-star for his generosity in helping someone new to the industry get up to speed. Korman’s tutoring helped Lawrence tremendously and garnered her more time on the show.
“He was a selfless mentor and we started using her a lot more,” Burnett wrote. “The more she was on camera, the better and more confident she became.”
Vicki Lawrence expressed gratitude for her former mentor
In a 1979 interview, Lawrence recalled being the new kid on the block when she joined The Carol Burnett Show.
“When I started on her show, I was such a geek,” Lawrence said in a 1979 Television Academy interview, according to Burnett’s book. “I was pitiful. Harvey used to get mad at me whenI would say that, but he took me under his wing and it was either kill me or train me, one of the two.”
The former variety show star credited Korman for her giving her a priceless education as an actor.
“He’s the one who took me aside and trained me,” Lawrence explained. “Harvey was nothing if not a team player and probably the best, I would say arguably the best, sketch comedian ever. And how fortunate for me that I feel like I got to go to the Harvard School of Comedy in front of America.”