During its 11-season run on CBS, The Carol Burnett Show featured a slew of celebrities from film, television, and music. In 1974, The Jackson 5 were topping the charts with hit after hit, and made a guest appearance in season 7.
During their sketch with Burnett, a potentially dangerous incident took place which called for some quick thinking from the show’s host to keep things calm.
The Jackson 5 did some acting on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’
Welcoming A-list stars on her show that ran from 1967 to 1978, Burnett performed alongside Hollywood icons including Jimmy Stewart, Cher, Bing Crosby, and Flip Wilson. She was able to recruit music’s hit pop group in the mid-70s for a guest spot.
“The first time Michael, Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, and Marlon – along with their youngest brother Randy – were on our show was March 16, 1974,” Burnett recalled in her 2016 memoir In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox. “The Jacksons performed ‘Dancing Machine,’ featuring the incredibly talented 16-year-old Michael.”
Burnett described the sketch that she headed with the group toward the end of the show.
“Later on in the show they took part in our finale,” the comedy legend explained, “portraying bored ‘students’ (along with our dancers) in a classroom run by an uptight old biddy (me) attempting to teach the kids how to read music.”
Carol Burnett plowed through an earthquake
During Burnett’s skit with the Jacksons, their studio was hit with something completely unexpected.
“My character continues trying to engage a totally disinterested bunch of kids,” she recalled, “when out of the blue… there is an earthquake! I mean a real earthquake. The stage lights above us started swaying like crazy, and everybody in Studio 33 stopped breathing for a few seconds.”
Rather than panicking, Burnett kept her cool and stayed in character as the stern teacher to set a calm tone.
“I glanced at our audience and no one had moved,” the famous redhead explained. “I figured I should keep going on with the scene, and as the teacher, I said, ‘No visiting, no visiting! The earth just moved. See what can happen when you pay attention!’ There were no more jolts and we finished the number, none the worse for wear.”
Carol Burnett described the pop group as ‘shy’
Burnett interacted with the group when rehearsing their sketch, and revealed that all members were a bit introverted. Yet when they took to the stage to perform their song, The Jackson 5 pulled out all the stops.
“The Jacksons were very shy during rehearsals, so very, very shy,” the variety show star commented. “But when it came time to perform, they blew the roof off the studio!”
She also noted the group’s kindness, as well as Michael’s apparent insecurities.
“They were the sweetest kids in the world, and I couldn’t wait to have them back with us,” Burnett remarked. “They graced our show with their fantastic talents three times. I’m still sad that Michael thought he was unattractive. I thought he was beautiful.”