Today is the 80th birthday of one of the funniest women in America, A lady who ruled TV for 11 years on her own sketch show on CBS, Carol Burnett! Although I clearly wasn’t alive during 1967-1978, I was able to catch a syndicated version of The Carol Burnett Show on TBS when I was in elementary school. I don’t know if I can fully articulate how incredibly influential Carol Burnett’s been in my life. When I was in 3th grade, I was cast as the Queen in Cinderella, so I did what I thought was a dead-on impression of Burnett’s Queen Elizabeth from the “Stinky” sketch. (“STINKYYYY?”). For Halloween I wanted desperately to dress as the Charwoman, but after the previous year’s difficulty getting my classmates to understand who Harpo Marx was, I decided to go with my other childhood hero, Sherlock Holmes. (Good thing too; it snowed!) I never doubted women could be funny and powerful and dignified all at once, because every week a friend named Carol Burnett came into my living room for an hour to tell me jokes.
Unfortunately, it’s much harder to find her show now. I have a small DVD box set of Carol’s Favorites, but I pine after the recently released, limited-time-only collection of 50 episodes. (Student loans, car repair payments, or Carol Burnett DVDs: pick one.) Fortunately, some wiley YouTube folks have uploaded sketches from their old VHS tapes, so you can get a good idea of what the show was. So, since I can’t invite all of you to my place for the marathon viewing party this incredibly important day deserves, in the spirit of the blog here are my 4 favorite movie parodies from The Carol Burnett Show.
4) “Double Calamity”– Because Film Noir as a genre is ripe for parody. This sketch shows two things The Carol Burnett Show combined so well: physical comedy and wordplay. Every time Mr. Left (“Left?” “Right.”) bites off one of her earrings, I absolutely lose it.
3) “As The Stomach Turns – Raven”– Carol Burnett loves soap operas, so of course the show had to take aim at this genre too. “As The Stomach Turns” was a fantastic parody of what was wrong with soap operas (my favorite gag is the late doorbell), but usually also incorporated a popular movie as well. This particular send off of The Exorcist is my personal favorite not only because I love Bernadette Peters, but also because by the end of the sketch Tim Conway is so clearly going off script and it’s all Carol Burnett can do to keep it together and finish the scene.
2) “Nora Desmond”– Carol Burnett is the best actress for emoting through the eyes since the heydey of silent film, so of course she had to take aim at Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. This sketch isn’t really even about Sunset Boulevard. It takes the basic idea (batty silent film star out of touch with reality and her creepy director/butler), builds a new character, and then they just run with it. Carol was so good as Nora Desmond that she and Max became a recurring sketch. My favorite of those later ones is “Nora Desmond Gets Roasted.” Especially when she picks up the foie gras and starts giving her Oscars acceptance speech. Just. Flawless.
1) “Went With The Wind”– I just–I can’t. I can’t even. Nothing I can say can possibly do justice for how good this is.
The best part is that I haven’t even scratched the surface of the hilarity that was The Carol Burnett Show. Since I’m (theoretically) trying to stay on-theme with the blog right now, I left out all of the original sketches. “The Dentist”, “Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins”, “Mama’s Family”, “Product Placement”, (my favorite) “The Pail.” Bless you, Carol Burnett, for making our lives funnier, happier, and sillier. I’m so glad we had this time together.