Carol Burnett's Full Bio
An award-winning comedienne, actress, and author, Carol Burnett is one of America’s most cherished entertainers. With a career spanning seven decades, Ms. Burnett is widely recognized for her performances on television, film, and Broadway, most notably her groundbreaking work on The Carol Burnett Show. Named in 2007 by TIME magazine as one of the “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 decorated and best loved shows in television history.
Throughout her career, Ms. Burnett’s work has been honored with multiple Emmy, Golden Globe, and People’s Choice Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, an Ace Award, a Peabody Award, and a Grammy Award. Her peers have celebrated her outstanding legacy with two Lifetime Achievement Awards—one from the Screen Actors Guild in 2016, and another from the Golden Globes in 2019. Her contributions to American culture have been honored on the national level through the Kennedy Center Honors (2003), the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (2013), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005).
Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1933, Ms. Burnett was raised in Hollywood by her mother and grandmother. After receiving an anonymous donation of $50 to pay her college tuition, Ms. Burnett enrolled at UCLA and discovered acting while studying journalism.
Following college, she moved to New York City where she soon teamed up with other aspiring actors, writers, and composers to stage a musical review. The performance led to several summer stock offers as well as steady work on the Winchell-Mahoney Show. Following appearances on The Jack Paar Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, Ms. Burnett became a permanent cast member on The Garry Moore Show in 1959 and landed the lead role of Princess Winifred in the original Broadway production of Once Upon a Mattress, for which she received her first Tony Award nomination.
While in New York, Ms. Burnett became close friends with Julie Andrews, appearing with her in the Emmy-winning television special, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. Noticing her now-proven star power, CBS signed Ms. Burnett to a 10-year contract, launching The Carol Burnett Show in 1967. With a talented ensemble featuring Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, and guest stars including such luminaries as Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Ronald Reagan, Betty White, Cher, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, Rock Hudson, Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda, and many, many more, the show quickly became a hit and ran until 1978.
Following the success of The Carol Burnett Show, Ms. Burnett produced and starred in several television specials, working with performers including Beverly Sills, Dolly Parton, and Julie Andrews. She also appeared as a guest star on numerous series, including Glee, Hot in Cleveland, Hawaii 5-0, and Law and Order: SVU. In 2005, Ms. Burnett returned to her Once Upon a Mattress roots, appearing in a television special of the musical as the evil Queen Aggravain.
Ms. Burnett’s numerous film credits include Miss Hannigan in 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 in Fade Out, Fade In; Stephen Sondheim’s musical revue Putting It Together; and Moon Over Buffalo, for which she received a second Tony Award nomination. She recently starred in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters (2014), opposite Brian Dennehy.Beyond her illustrious acting career, Ms. Burnett is also an accomplished writer. Her books include the New York Times bestsellers One More Time, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection, Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, and In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in The Sandbox, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. With her daughter Carrie Hamilton, she wrote the play Hollywood Arms, which premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2002 before transferring to Broadway under the direction of the legendary Hal Prince. Sadly, Carrie passed away due to complications from lung cancer several months prior to the premiere. Ms. Burnett’s recent projects include the much-anticipated release of the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show on DVD, the development of Sunrise in Memphis, a feature film based on an unfinished story by her late daughter Carrie, the 50th anniversary special of The Carol Burnett Show, which aired on CBS last December, and a new family-friendly Netflix show, A Little Help with Carol Burnett.
As a passionate supporter of the arts and education, she has endowed several scholarships, including the Carol Burnett Musical Theatre Competition at her alma mater, UCLA, and established the Carrie Hamilton Foundation to honor her daughter’s memory.