‘The Carol Burnett Show’: The Real Reason Lyle Waggoner Left the Show

The Carol Burnett Show brought plenty of comedy to primetime television screens between 1967 and 1978. The show, starring Carol Burnett, provided a series of comedic sketches (similar in format to Saturday Night Live!), with some recurring and others one-time only.

During the show’s run, a few cast members came and went, including Lyle Waggoner, who appeared in the show’s first seven seasons. But what was the reason for his departure?

'The Carol Burnett Show' cast in 1993
‘The Carol Burnett Show’ cast in 1993 | CBS/Getty Images

‘The Carol Burnett Show’ had only a few staple cast members

Though the show ran for more than a decade, the core list of cast members hardly changed — and it wasn’t a very big list. Of course, Carol Burnett was the star. Burnett had been in TV for several years before the show launched; she’d been mentored by Lucille Ball, and her sense of humor helped her pioneer women in TV. The Carol Burnett Show was the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman and named after its female host.

The show’s other cast members included Vicki Lawrence, whose sense of humor and acting abilities helped her make a massive name for herself on the show. She remained a cast member through the series’ entire run. Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Tim Conway, and Dick Van Dyke also starred on the show, though some of their runs lasted longer than others. Waggoner, who was a series regular when the show premiered, ended up leaving after seven seasons.

'The Carol Burnett Show' cast
‘The Carol Burnett Show’ cast | Vince Bucci/Getty Images

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Waggoner left because he thought there were better opportunities out there

Lyle Waggoner didn’t initially set out to star in a sketch comedy show. Waggoner had been acting for several years when he landed a spot on the show, but he had recently just lost another coveted role. Waggoner wanted to play Batman in the upcoming film but lost out to Adam West, which prompted him to audition for other opportunities.

Though Waggoner enjoyed his time on the show, he always wanted to do more with his career. And after seven seasons, he decided that there were bigger and better things out there for him. Waggoner left the show with the hope of advancing his career, though that ship never fully sailed. He landed a role in Wonder Woman shortly after, but he didn’t build much of a reputation beyond The Carol Burnett Show. In March 2020, Waggoner died of cancer at 84.

Lyle Waggoner (left) on the set of 'The Carol Burnett Show'
Lyle Waggoner (left) on the set of ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ | Ron Tom/NBCU Photo Bank

Tim Conway took Waggoner’s place  

When Waggoner left, nobody was immediately hired to take his place. Tim Conway, who had made guest appearances on the show throughout all of its seasons, was eventually given a permanent spot on the show as Waggoner’s replacement for the show’s duration.

After 10 seasons, another cast member left: Harvey Korman. Korman left the show in favor of his own series, though there were also rumors Burnett fired him because he was rude to guest stars. Korman’s replacement, Dick Van Dyke, didn’t mesh well with the audience or the show. Though Van Dyke was generally a well-liked actor, he never quite found his place and left the show after only three months of filming.