Carol Burnett's Full Bio
Carol Burnett, an award-winning actress and best-selling author, is widely recognized by the public and her peers for her work for her comedic and dramatic roles on television, film, and Broadway, most notably The Carol Burnett Show. Named in 2007 by TIME magazine as one of “100 Best Television Shows of All Time,” The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 years, averaged 30 million viewers per week, and received 25 Emmy Awards, making it one of the most honored shows in television history.
As a highly acclaimed actress, Ms. Burnett has been honored with Emmys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, an Ace Award, the Peabody, and a Grammy. A Kennedy Center Honoree, the recipient of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom; was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The City of Los Angeles named the intersection of Highland Avenue and Selma directly adjacent to Hollywood High School, Carol’s alma mater, Carol Burnett Square and CBS Studios dedicated “The Carol Burnett Artist Entrance” in her honor. Carol was celebrated by her colleagues and fellow actors with the Life Achievement honors at the 2016 SAG Awards.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1933, Ms. Burnett, her mother, and grandmother moved to a less-than-glamorous section of Hollywood in the late 1930s. Raised in a small studio apartment by her grandmother, but with no financial means, Ms. Burnett could only dream of college. After receiving an anonymous donation of $50 to pay for her tuition to UCLA, she enrolled. While studying journalism, she took an acting class, and the rest is history.
After moving to New York City, Ms. Burnett staged a musical revue, featuring her out-of-work roommates from The Rehearsal Club, a theatrical boarding house, performing material by unemployed writers and composers. Soon, offers for summer stock and 13 weeks’ work on Paul Winchell’s television show followed. While performing at the Blue Angel nightclub, she was spotted by talent bookers from both The Jack Paar Show and The Ed Sullivan Show and was invited to perform her infamous rendition of “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles,” written by Ken Welch. Shortly thereafter, she landed the leading role of Princess Winifred in the original Broadway musical production of Once Upon a Mattress. In 1959, after guest spots on Garry Moore’s morning television show she became a permanent cast member on The Garry Moore Show, taping the show during the day and performing Mattress at night for the remainder of its Broadway run. She remained a regular on Garry Moore for the next four years.
During this period, Carol met Julie Andrews and the two became close friends. After the duo appeared in their Emmy-winning special, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, CBS took notice of this emerging new talent and signed her to a ten-year contract. On September 11, 1967, The Carol Burnett Show premiered on CBS. With a talented ensemble featuring Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, the show became a hit. Guest stars included many of the greatest performers from music, stage and screen including Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Ronald Reagan, Betty White, Cher, Jim Nabors, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Rock Hudson, Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda, and many, many more. Her portrayal of “Starlet” O’Hara in “Went With The Wind,” a parody of Gone With The Wind, is always counted among the top 10 greatest moments in television history. The Bob Mackie designed “curtain-rod” dress, as it is known, now resides at The Smithsonian. In 2012 Time Life released The Carol Burnett Show on DVD and set a record, selling more than 4 million DVDs in six months.
After the show concluded in 1978, Carol immersed herself in numerous projects. She wrote three New York Times bestsellers: One More Time, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story which both received Grammy nominations for Best Spoken Word Recording. Her latest and fourth book, In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun In The Sandbox is a poignant love letter to the golden era of television while simultaneously dissecting the elements of what made The Carol Burnett Show the iconic success that it was. This publication received favorable reviews and won the aforementioned Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording.
She added playwright to her credits when she and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, wrote Hollywood Arms. Sadly, Carrie passed away three months prior to the play’s premiere at the Chicago Goodman Theatre in April 2002. Directed by Hal Prince, Hollywood Arms premiered on Broadway on October 31, 2002.
Ms. Burnett’s film credits include playing Miss Hannigan in the film version of the musical Annie, directed by John Huston; Noises Off, directed by Peter Bogdanovich; A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman; and Four Seasons, directed by Alan Alda. On Broadway, she appeared Fade Out, Fade In, Stephen Sondheim’s musical revue Putting It Together; and the farce, Moon Over Buffalo. She recently starred in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters (2014) opposite Brian Dennehy.
She produced and starred in numerous television specials, teaming up with with Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Dolly Parton and two more with her chum Julie Andrews. She guest starred on several television series, including Glee, Hot in Cleveland, Hawaii 5-0 and Law and Order: SVU. She also starred in the television series Fresno and Carol & Co., as well as the highly acclaimed made-for-television movies Friendly Fire and Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice. In 2005 she returned to her Once Upon a Mattress roots, appearing in a television special, this time playing the evil Queen Aggravain.
Over the past year, Carol has been focused on four major projects. The first is the long awaited release on DVD of the initial five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show. These “lost episodes” have never been seen nor distributed since their initial broadcast and will for the first time be combined with the already available episodes from Seasons 6 – 11. Rollout commenced August, 2015. The second is the active development of a feature with CBS Films entitled “Sunrise in Memphis” based on an unfinished story penned by her late daughter, Carrie. The third was “The 50th Anniversary of The Carol Burnett Show” special, which aired on CBS last December to enormous ratings, showing the multi-generational appeal and strength of a show as relevant now as it was 50 years ago. The 4th is Carol’s new family show on Netflix entitled A Little Help with Carol Burnett launched in 2018. The show, hosted by Ms. Burnett, is about a panel of young children providing advice to adults with dilemmas.
When not performing or presenting her live Q & A format “Laughter & Reflection,” she enjoys spending time with her husband Brian, her two daughters Jody and Erin, her grandsons, and her cat, Nikki. As a passionate supporter of the arts and education, she established several scholarships around the country, including the Carol Burnett Musical Theatre Competition at her alma mater, UCLA, and the Carrie Hamilton Foundation, to honor her daughter’s memory.