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Interview With Carol Burnett

Aired September 28, 2003 - 21:00   ET


CAROL BURNETT, ENTERTAINER: I know what it was. It was a seven!


BURNETT: It was a seven!


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Carol Burnett, America's favorite funny lady, has an inspiring life story, a brilliant career, tragic loss of a daughter, making it all bittersweet. You may cry. You'll definitely laugh. We've got an hour with a legend. The one, the only, Carol Burnett. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a great pleasure to welcome Carol Burnett to LARRY KING LIVE. She improves the setting. She's the author of "The New York Times" best-selling memoir, "One More Time." That book has been reissued with a new afterward by Carol.

This is like a sequel? This a movie sequel? What is it?

CAROL BURNETT, ENTERTAINER: Well, not really. It's -- they called a little while ago, a few months ago. And they're doing -- Random House called. And they published the book 17 years ago, the memoir. And then they're reissuing -- it's an encore series. And...

KING: Oh. Doing others?

BURNETT: paperback size. It's a lot bigger than most paperback. And they did a few biographies and they chose mine to be one of them.

KING: And the afterward dealt with what's happened in the 17 years since?

BURNETT: Not really. The afterward actually deals with the fact that I did go back to the room where I was raised and it deals with the fact that my daughter, Carrie, and I -- Carrie suggested that as a mother-daughter project we write a play based on the memoir, "One More Time," just kind of as a fun thing.

KING: So you write about that?

BURNETT: We write about that and then how it did make it to Broadway and that Carrie and I went the distance with it.

KING: Sure did. We did a whole show on it.

BURNETT: That's right. You did. Thank you.

KING: Why didn't that play work? What happened?

BURNETT: It did. It worked great. Unfortunately, straight plays have a rough time in New York.

KING: Oh, yes. That's right. This was not a -- they expected a comedy, you think?

BURNETT: Well, there was a lot of funny stuff in it. I mean, Linda Lavin -- forget it. She was just absolutely hysterically funny in parts and then she broke your heart in other parts.

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: I got wonderful mail from the people whole saw it and some really nice, nice reviews and now it's in the hands of a couple of producers. I won't say who.

KING: Television movie?

BURNETT: As a possible movie for cable. Yes.

KING: And you're coming back to TV soon?

BURNETT: Well, I'm in development now with ABC and it's -- when you say in development, you go, Well, it will happen or it won't. But no, they're already writing the script. We're going to redo "Once Upon a Mattress," which was a show that gave me my start...

KING: Sure.

BURNETT: theater. And I've done it twice already on television where I played Princess Winifred. This time I will be co- producing and then playing the evil queen which will be...

KING: When are they targeting it for? Next year?

BURNETT: They're targeting it for next year. If the script is ready and we get it cast in time, we will film it in November and part of December.

KING: We'll go back over a lot of things and we'll cover a lot of we'll cover a lot of "One More Time," the book and the afterward.


KING: But tell me about how you were informed of the Kennedy Center Honor. You've attended a lot. You've presented people at the Kennedy Center. The last one was Julie Andrews.

BURNETT: Yes. Julie Andrews, my chum. KING: How were you told?

BURNETT: I got a letter.

KING: Just a letter?

BURNETT: It was a letter.

KING: Regular with a stamp, or mailed letter?

BURNETT: No, FedEx. It was a FedEx. It said "Kennedy Center." And I though, hmm, you know, I wonder what that's all about. And opened it up and there it was.

It said, "We would like to have you be one of our honorees this year at Kennedy Center. We'll be in touch." And so forth.

I had to look at the address again. I thought is this true? I mean, this is really -- this is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me careerwise.

KING: Did you ever say to yourself, "It's about time?"



BURNETT: No, no.

KING: Did you expect it?

BURNETT: No, no. That's what makes it so nice. You know the worst is if you're expecting something and you don't get it or even if you're expecting it and you do. It's not the kick that this was, opening that letter.

And my husband was with me. He said, "What's wrong?" Because I was speechless. And he read it and then we both kind of got a little teary eyed.

KING: You're on the board of selectors? So they had to do this without your knowledge.

BURNETT: Oh, yes, yes. I had voted -- oh gosh, I've been voting for years. Not voting.

KING: Is it a ballot or you just write in...

BURNETT: No, you write in a name. You write in the...

KING: Five categories, right?

BURNETT: They give you five categories. And then you say, "OK, now who do I think deserves it?" And Roddy McDowall and I used to call each other, because he was one on the board, too. And we would kick names back and forth. And I miss him more than, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: What a guy.

BURNETT: But we just had the most fun. And so many of our choices...

KING: Got in?


KING: Who will present to you?

BURNETT: I don't know.

KING: Oh, you don't know that?

BURNETT: No. It's all going to be a surprise, I guess. I mean, it won't be a surprise when I see somebody there. I'll know that I know that they're a part of it. But I don't know...

KING: If you see Tim Conway and Harvey Korman walking down the hotel...

BURNETT: If I see Tim Conway, I don't think they're there for Itzhak Perlman, you know. Or I know they're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there for me, but I won't know what they would be doing. And I don't even know if they're going to be there.

KING: I asked you before we went on, "Who deserves a Kennedy Center honor that hasn't gotten one yet?" And you immediately said, "Tony Bennett."

BURNETT: Yes, I did. Yes.

KING: So you vote for Tony, then?

BURNETT: Yes, every...

KING: He's 77 now. He deserves it.

BURNETT: He keeps singing. He's singing better than he ever did. And he's crossed over and he's winning all these awards. And, you know, the man is...

KING: I think 10 straight Grammys.

BURNETT: That's wonderful. And I just think it's long overdue. In the popular music category, Tony Bennett definitely.

KING: Having been there at that night, what do you think it's going to be like to be sitting up in the box and going to the White House as an honoree?

BURNETT: Well, I think it's -- well, of course I'm going to be excited. I won't be nervous because I was always nervous presenting because you'd have to perform. KING: You don't have to perform.

BURNETT: Yes. Isn't that the classiest thing?

KING: You just get it.

BURNETT: You just -- and you don't have to say anything. You don't have to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for your supper, you don't have to get up and give a thank-you speech really. You just -- I guess you sit there and you smile and you weep and you wave. That's it.

KING: And it's quite a weekend, isn't it? It's more than just the honor night.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, the first day, I think, there's a luncheon or something like that. Then Saturday night is a State Department dinner. That's when they give you the ribbons, you know. That's when they present -- and it will be Colin Powell, I believe. At least that's what it was when I was there for Julie.

And then this Sunday is another lunch or brunch or something. And then the big show, the gala, the reception at the White House.

KING: And Cronkite always hosts it for CBS.

BURNETT: Cronkite -- Walter Cronkite always hosts it for CBS.

KING: No one is more deserving than you.

BURNETT: Well, thank you. Thank you.

KING: I'm really happy for you.

BURNETT: Thank you, Larry.

KING: You deserve good things in life.

BURNETT: Thank you.

KING: Was childhood rough?

BURNETT: Well, a lot of people who read the memoir think it was. I really never thought it was that rough because that's the way the neighborhood was and that's the way all my kids that I grew up with, we were all in the same boat pretty much financially.

KING: Didn't know you were poor?

BURNETT: Well, we knew we were poor, yes, because our parents kept telling us. My grandma (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...


BURNETT: Yes, exactly. You know, she was -- and, yes, I had a hunch we were poor when my grandmother and I would steal toilet paper from the movie theaters and take it home with us. KING: That's a good tip.

Our guest is Carol Burnett, the entertainment legend, Kennedy Center honoree this year. Her book afterward -- with a new afterward is "One More Time". It's been republished by Random House. We'll be right back with Carol Burnett right after this.



BURNETT: All's you ever get from me is kitchen appliance because that's all I do around here is housework.

LAWRENCE: You'd never know it.

BURNETT: I spend my entire life in this two-by-four shack taking care of those two kids and then you come home from work and what do you do? Look at me, Ed. What do you do? You sit down and you fill your stomach and then you watch the TV and then you fall asleep. Oh, once in awhile you might feel a little bit romantic and that's supposed to be some big thrill for me. I practically have to get down on my hands and knees tonight to beg you to play a simple little parlor game of "Sorry!" just so's I can have some fun with this impossible old woman.






KING: I mean, how could you -- could you work straight with Conway?

BURNETT: Well, you saw me cracking up there.

KING: I know. How could you not?

BURNETT: No. I wish I had invested in Depends, you know? Because you just couldn't control yourself with him.

KING: He's truly...

BURNETT: One of the funniest human beings in the world.

KING: Ever?

BURNETT: Yes, definitely.

KING: Ever? When did Carol Burnett know that she wanted to stand in front of people? BURNETT: I didn't really know until I got to college, when I got to UCLA. I wanted at the beginning, way back, to be a cartoonist and have my own comic strip and want it.

KING: Do you still draw?

BURNETT: Yes, I doodle, but not so much anymore. And then I wanted to be a journalist.


BURNETT: And I was editor of my high school Hollywood High paper and thought about that. And then I went to UCLA actually to major in journalism and playwrighting. And I had to -- so I took theater arts English which provided me with the playwrighting courses.

And as a freshman, if you majored in any part of theater arts at UCLA you had to take scenery, you had to take costumes, you had to take lighting, and you had to take an acting course. Just Acting 1A, you know. Everybody, whether they wanted to write or direct or produce or what, had to take that.

So I got in the acting class and I was terrified. And I was assigned -- a guy who was in the class, his name was Dick Vernut (ph), and we're still buddies. And we had to pick a scene to do, and so did the rest of the class. And we chose "Red Peppers" from -- that Noel Coward wrote, that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lawrence (ph) had been in with him.

And it was a comedy sketch and we sang a little song. And I thought that would be easier than doing something dramatic.

KING: You thought comedy was easier?

BURNETT: Well, I figured lighter that, you know, I would be embarrassed to try to get very dramatic and...

KING: Were you funny? Were you the kind of kid who...

BURNETT: I don't know. Normally, I'm...

KING: Were you a class clown?

BURNETT: No. I was a nerd.

KING: Really?

BURNETT: Yes. But yes, I was a nerd. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I kind of did it like Betty Grable, because she was my favorite movie star, with a Cockney accent. And I heard the laughs and I thought...


BURNETT: ... oh, this is nice. I like that. And all of a sudden I start getting popular at UCLA, and I never was much of a draw in high school or junior high. You know, guys would come over and say, "You want to have lunch on the lawn today and get with us seniors?" And I thought this is a great way to meet guys. Because I was like -- and it just started that way. I mean, I had no idea.

KING: Well, did comedy come then easily to you?

BURNETT: Yes. Yes.

KING: This is just natural then? You had no training in comedy, did you?


KING: Other than what UCLA...

BURNETT: No. I don't know that anybody can have training in comedy. You can have training in acting and doing comedy scenes and stuff, but nobody can say, "Well, I'm going to count to four and then I'm going to say this next line." That's not timing.

KING: Well, when they say comedy is a serious business, are they right?

BURNETT: I think so, yes. It is.

KING: Because you have to play it...


KING: ... like serious.

BURNETT: Yes. Yes. Yes.

KING: You have to have timing, because some great actors don't do comedy well.

BURNETT: That's right. And there are a lot of comedians who can do dramatic very well.

KING: Because they are acting a lot.


KING: Especially -- like they're sad, they have to go on.


KING: How do you keep -- like Conway, it's impossible, right? To keep from laughing in funny stuff, how do you train yourself for that?

BURNETT: Well, you just have -- well, I bite my lower lip a lot...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TIM CONWAY, COMEDIAN: I felt sorry for him. I couldn't go like the other elephants when they go wooo! All they could do is just lul (ph) and go (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


BURNETT: So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) please god, don't let me fail (ph).

There was a very tough time I had, and it's on a clip. And if you really look, you see I'm about to go, but thank goodness I didn't. It's when Bob Mackie put that me in that costume for "Gone With the Wind". You know, the curtain rod?

And I came down those stairs and a lot of the crew had not seen that outfit. And then the audience, of course, went crazy, because that's one of the greatest sight gags ever. And I was trying to keep a straight face because of the reaction.

KING: It's essential to the...

BURNETT: Very essential. And when Harvey said, "Scarlett, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you look absolutely beautiful," I really had to just steal myself to say, "Thank you. I saw it in a window and I just couldn't resist it."

Well I was almost ready to go. And it was just -- it was very hard not to laugh. But I made it...


KING: We're going to see it in a couple of minutes.

BURNETT: Oh, I didn't know that.

KING: When we go to break we're going to play it.


KING: Was Gary Moore your big break?

BURNETT: Gary Moore was my big break.

KING: The late Gary Moore -- and it's sad that people have forgotten him -- like Arthur Gottfried, two great men forgotten.

BURNETT: Absolutely.

KING: Gary Moore was a great host.

BURNETT: He was one of the kindest people and smart.

KING: A Baltimore kid.

BURNETT: Very -- yes, very, very smart.

KING: Where did he spot you?

BURNETT: He spotted me when I came to audition for his morning show. And he said -- I did a bit with Ken Welch (ph), who wrote it for me. And he said, "I'll put you on Friday," because he would have newcomers come on his Friday morning show. And he said, "And any time you get a new piece of material, you don't have to show it to me. Just come on."

So then he was doing a Tuesday night show...

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: ... and I got a call -- and it was live at that time -- and I got a call on Sunday and Martha Raye, who was going to be on, had the flu and couldn't make it. And they said, "Can you come over and learn the show?"

And that was a Sunday afternoon. And I went...

KING: You became a regular.

BURNETT: And as a result of that he asked me to be on.

KING: Carol Burnett is our guest. Again, the memoir, "One More Time," has been republished by Random House with a new afterward by Carol. She is a Kennedy Center honoree. And here is Scarlett O'Hara.


BURNETT: What brings you to Tara?

CONWAY: You, you vixen you. Scarlett, I love you. That gown is gorgeous.

BURNETT: Thank you. I saw it in a window and I just couldn't resist it.





BURNETT: The same fellow who does all of Cher's clothes. It's true. Bob Mackie does mine.

Now I want you to see the kind of work that goes into one of these outfits. And the man is a genius, I must say. And he's designed all of these things. And I think, since we're not on in the family hour, that you can see this.


(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Anything for a laugh, right? Any...

BURNETT: Why not? I'm cheap. I'll do it.

KING: How did you parlay the Gary Moore thing?

BURNETT: Parlay with Gary?

KING: I mean, you took that and went to?

BURNETT: I took the Gary Moore Show, and also at the same time I was doubling in "Once Upon a Mattress."

KING: On stage?

BURNETT: Off Broadway. And so I did that for a year. And then I left "Mattress" after a year and stayed with Gary for two or three years.

And I got really such good training from him. We'd do -- it was a variety show and we'd do different sketches. We all -- Neil Simon was one of our writers at Gary's show.

KING: Weird.

BURNETT: Yes. He wrote "Come Blow Your Horn," his first play, while he was a writer on Gary's show. And Gary was one of his first investors.

KING: So you became a famous sketch comic, right?

BURNETT: Yes. Well...

KING: And then what, you went west?

BURNETT: Then I went west and did a few specials out here. And then there was a contract I had with CBS at the time that was pretty unusual. I could, if I pushed the button, get 30 pay or play hours in a variety show on CBS.

KING: Really?


KING: Just by saying...

BURNETT: Just by saying I'd like to do a variety show now. Thank you. And I had a five-year limit and the limit was almost up. And so my husband, Joe, and I were talking. We said, you know, maybe we ought to push that button.

So I called CBS and said, "Yes, I'd like to do that variety show." And they said, "What variety show? What are you talking about?" "Oh, good, all right." And then, "We'll get back to you."

Well, of course the lawyers went in and they looked at the contract and thought, uh-oh, it's in there, you know? And they called me back and said, "Well, Gee, Carol. It's just great you want to do that, but you know it's more of a guy field. You know, like Gleason and Sid Caesar and Gary Moore." And I said, "But that's what I know and what I love, sketches and doing different characters."

They wanted me to do a sitcom, I think, called "Here Is Agnes (ph)" or something like that. And I said...

KING: The suits.

BURNETT: Yes, the suits.

BURNETT: Yes, the suits. And I said, "No, variety, that's what I want, with guests and a company to play with and, you know, a rep company." And that's how it happened.

KING: Did it hit right away?

BURNETT: It hit OK, yes. We did all right. They put us in a tough slot. I remember it was first Monday night opposite "I Spy" and "Big Valley."

And I thought, well, we're sunk (ph), but at least we'll have 30 of them on the air. You know? But we did all right.

And then they moved us to Wednesday night at 8:00 and we went right into the cellar. And then they moved us again. In those days...

KING: They stayed with it.

BURNETT: They stayed with it because Mr. Paley (ph) liked the show and believed in it. He would move you around until...


BURNETT: .. your audience, you know? And now, forget it.

KING: Did Harvey and Tim come on right away?

BURNETT: Harvey did. A lot of people think Tim was on as a regular all those years. We didn't get -- duh-- bright enough and sign Tim until the ninth year.

KING: Were there eight years without him?

BURNETT: Well, he was on. People thought he was a regular...

KING: But not as a regular.

BURNETT: ... but he was a semi regular. We had him on maybe twice a month. You know, once a month, at least. Twice a month sometimes. So finally, as I say, the penny dropped and we got him on regularly.

KING: Was it your idea to talk to the audience? BURNETT: No. You know, it was Bob Banner (ph), who was one of the...

KING: I remember Bob.

BURNETT: You remember Bob. He -- I had done some Q&A when I was on tour. I had a show that I did in 1962. And he said, "You know, why don't you do the warm-up since instead of getting a comic out to do the warm-up for the audience?" The way Gary did that. Gary would do that. And he was a master of it. But they never taped Gary's Q&As.

And I said, "You know, I don't think anybody is going to believe that we're not -- don't have a plant out there or something. You know?" He said, "Why don't you try it?"

And I was nervous about it, but it worked. And we never did have a plant because we couldn't write some of those questions, you know? And I enjoyed doing it.

KING: Did you have pretty much the same stable of writers for most of those years?

BURNETT: It varied. Sometimes for instance -- see, we had what we would call a longform show. We would do sketches. Sometimes it went 10 minutes or longer even.

After a while, the writers on our show thought, "Wouldn't it be nice togo over to "Laugh-In". You know, where they do 10 second blackouts and fun -- you know, and then a lot of the "Laugh-In" writers would want to come over and do the longform. There were about, oh gosh, hundreds of variety shows on at one point when we were on.

There was Flip Wilson, "Laugh-In," "The Smothers Brothers," "Sonny and Cher," us. It was a swinging place.

KING: It's sad that that's gone?

BURNETT: It is sad.

KING: Yes.

Carol Burnett is our guest. "One More Time" is out and available with a new afterward. She's a Kennedy Center honoree. Back with more after this.


BURNETT: However the money would then go to my equally disgusting nephew (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the event of Bosoce's (ph) death.


BURNETT: I'm sure there wasn't much there in the first place. (END VIDEO CLIP)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're still a beauty, Molly. That remind you of anything?

BURNETT: Joe Namath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm so glamorous?

BURNETT: No, because you'd need 10 other men to help you score.


KING: That was a great character. The characters you came up with -- that character, the secretary.

BURNETT: Oh, Mrs. Wiggins (ph) and Mr. Todbawl (ph), but Tim wrote those. Tim wrote those sketches.

KING: Now let's discuss -- we'll touch on it, the (ph) Carrie life. Was she always a writer, your daughter?

BURNETT: Carrie wrote from the time she was in grammar school. She would write little essays and stories.

KING: Did she write for you?

BURNETT: No, never did. Never did for me, no. She was more into plays and screenplays and that. And then she also was -- before she got sick, she had been doing some directing, writing and directing with her younger sister, Jody, my Jody, producing.

And they won a prize at the Latino Film Festival. In fact, Carrie was the first non-Latino...

KING: Really?

BURNETT: ... to win the directing prize for a short 11-minute film that she wrote and directed and Jody produced about a Spanish man.

KING: She was diagnosed with lung cancer.


KING: Was she a smoker?


KING: Did she regret smoking?

BURNETT: She apologized to me. KING: Did you smoke?

BURNETT: I did years -- I didn't start until I got on the Gary Moore show.

KING: You started as an adult?

BURNETT: As an adult, because every...

KING: Everybody smoked.

BURNETT: ... everybody smoked, and it looked so cool. Of course, I got hooked, and then the surgeon general's report came out. You know? And then that was too late. But I quit 22 years ago.

KING: Living through the cancer fight, what's that like to be the partner in this battle?

BURNETT: Well, it's...

KING: Are there up days, are there days when you..?

BURNETT: There are certain days when -- she was such a force. And she could make -- she would keep everybody laughing. She would go to radiation, radiation at Cedar's, and on Fridays they had disco Friday in radiation. And they would play disco music down there.

And Carrie couldn't stand the disco music that they had. It was the same -- so she went to Tower Records and got them a whole new disco CD. And then she would dress up on Fridays, would come in in a boa. She had a look about her, and before she lost her hair she would dye her hair different colors. And then she brought them a mirrored ball to hang in the radiation room.

And then they would disco, they would dance. And she'd kid around with everybody. And I got letters after she died from two nurses who said that she had made a difference for them in just conversing with them about their lives and their kids.

And, anyway, so those were good days. She did have a sense of humor about a lot of it until, of course, the end. And...

KING: Were you able to write about it?

BURNETT: Not yet.

KING: So it's not in the afterward?

BURNETT: Well, it's in the afterward, only about the fact that Carrie and I did write a play and that...

KING: "Hollywood Arms."

BURNETT: Yes, "Hollywood Arms." And then she got sick. And there's a little bit of a thing in the hospital when I go to see her after she was readmitted the second or third time. And I took her into the room and I said, "So, you wanted to come to the hospital, huh?" And she said, "Oh, I missed the food."

KING: By the way, we should add, Michelle Park (ph) won a Tony.

BURNETT: I was just going to say...


KING: ... in "Hollywood Arms."

BURNETT: I was just going to say, we were so excited about Michelle (ph) winning that Tony. That's just -- I wept when...

KING: Couple of other things on Carrie. It's hard, I guess, isn't it? How do you go on? How do...

BURNETT: What's the alternative?

KING: Well, I guess there isn't an alternative.

BURNETT: No. You -- it's -- how do you go on? You have your times when you give into -- you have to -- to your grief. I'm not trying to be stoic at all.

If I want to cry, or scream, I will go cry and scream. And I do that. I still do it and let it out.

KING: And how long now?

BURNETT: It will be two years in January. So two years ago now she was going through the discovery of the disease and going through all the treatments.

KING: When you know someone is going to pass on, does that make the passing on any less?


KING: So even though you have the inevitable, it still hits?

BURNETT: Oh yes. Oh yes. You know, it's just -- it was hard enough to lose my grandmother, my mother and my dad. But that's the normal way of things. You're not supposed to outlive our kids. That's all.

KING: How soon after death were you able to work?

BURNETT: I was working -- Carrie and I were working on the play. In fact, we wrote a scene when she was in the hospital that Hal Prince wanted us to tackle it. And that was great; we got to do that together.

I had to continue finishing the play. And I think...

KING: But that wasn't in public. BURNETT: Not in public, no. But I think in having to finish it, it saved my sanity at one point, because I was doing this not only for me. I was doing this for Carrie, and working with Hal and all the cast and everything. And that -- it gave me a purpose to get up out of bed.

KING: That's what -- you don't fear (ph), you're in depression, right?


KING: Where was the first public appearance you made? Do you remember?


KING: Did you guest on a television show?

BURNETT: No, I was on -- I did some Q&As. Occasionally I'd go around the country, and do 90 minutes of Q&A.

KING: Oh, you do one of those. What's the first time...

BURNETT: It was hard. It was hard. And a couple of people would raise their hand and say, we're so sorry about it. And I just thanked them and then went on, you know.

KING: What was opening night like?

BURNETT: Opening night was very exciting.

KING: We interviewed you I think the day before (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BURNETT: Yes. It was very exciting. And I had a dream, actually, that Carrie said to me, "Mom, when you go out on stage, I'm going to be with you." And I thought that's an odd dream, because I'm not in the play.

And then two days later the publicity people called and said, "Carol, would you mind at the end of the show coming on stage and taking a bow with the cast?" And I thought, that's what it is. And so when I went out there, I just knew Carrie was with me.

KING: And how did that make you feel? Good, I guess.


KING: Our guest is the wonderful Carol Burnett, a Kennedy Center honoree this year. And her publication "One More Time" has been republished by Random House with a new afterward.

We'll be right back.



LAWRENCE: You are really nuts, you know? Nuts. One of these days they're going to come over here and lock you up.

BURNETT: Oh lay off of me, will you?

LAWRENCE: You ain't playing with a full deck, Eunice. I think somebody blew your pilot light out.


BURNETT: That's a new one, mama.

LAWRENCE: You wait. There's more, Eunice. You know what? You've got splinters in the windmills of your mind.



KING: Splinters in the windmills of your mind.

BURNETT: See, that -- she -- now Vicky was adlibbing there, so she was getting me. That's why I had my head down. You know?

KING: Why did that group work so much, that family group?

BURNETT: I think people identified with it. You know, there's the mother, the in-laws, the husband who can't get a break, the wife who is frustrated, who wants to make something of herself and do something, but still is not that talented, not that terrific at it. And it was just one of your normal dysfunctional families.

KING: Wasn't it very hard to do that every week?

BURNETT: We didn't do the family -- oh, are you talking about our show?

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) show every week.

BURNETT: Not a bit.

KING: It wasn't hard?

BURNETT: Not for me. I just went in and did it.

KING: It had to be hard on writers.

BURNETT: On the writers, yes. But still, there was a joke that our writers would drive home without ever having to use their headlights. You know, they talk about writers being up all night doing it. It was a very well-oiled machine.

Now, some weeks, of course, we just had bombs that we did, just terrible sketches that we had. And then we would always have the next week to apologize and make up for (UNINTELLIGIBLE). KING: What is it like when you're in a sketch that isn't working and you know as a performer this ain't working?

BURNETT: What's it like?

KING: Yes.

BURNETT: Oh, it's like...

KING: Dying.

BURNETT: I guess so, yes. Drowning. Drowning is a good one. Drowning is good, yes.

KING: It seems like forever?

BURNETT: Yes. There was one time we were doing a sketch called "Mary Worthless" and I was doing a take-off on the comic strip character "Mary Worth." And we thought maybe we would do her every so often, so this was the first time.

And she was a busy body and she came into this person's home, Harvey and Vicky, who were married, and of course she totally destroys their marriage and everything. And at the end of it I am -- as Mary Worth was supposed to say, "We'll see you again soon. And don't surprised if you find me, Mary Worthless, knocking on your door someday."

Well, the sketch was so bad, so awful -- you know, the audience was like an oil painting. And so then it comes up to me, and I said, "Don't be surprised if you find -- no, be surprised, because I'm never doing this character again." And that's what was aired. So we let the audience in on it. You know? They knew it was bad; we knew it was bad. We won't do that again.

KING: Why fool an audience? You've done serious work, right? Have you enjoyed it? You didn't want to do it initially.

BURNETT: No. Well, yes and no. The time I really enjoyed it was working for Robert Altman.

KING: Oh, in...

BURNETT: Working for Bob Altman in "A Wedding" and in "HealtH," and then I did a thing called "The Laundromat."

He has an atmosphere that was very much like our show, just kind of fun and let's all get in this together. And he would say to all of his actors, "If you have an idea about a scene, I want you to come to me and talk to me about it. I may say no, but I really want to hear what you have to say, because some of the best suggestions I've ever had I got from you guys. So I want to hear."

That's confidence. That is a confident director. And so he just made us all feel that confidence in ourselves.

KING: How did you like doing drama?

BURNETT: OK, if I -- sometimes I get very nervous in front of the camera and I want to please the director so much that I'm not as independent as I should be. And that's always been a bugaboo of mine.

KING: That didn't occur in comedy?


KING: More faith in yourself?

BURNETT: Well, actually, it's different, because when I did most of my comedy there's been an audience to tell me what to do.

KING: Drama, even with an audience you don't know how you're doing.

BURNETT: But you get the vibe.

KING: You do?

BURNETT: You can get a vibe from the live, yes. Otherwise, it's just between you and the director.

KING: Didn't you do "Friendly Fire?"


KING: All right. The story of a woman whose son is killed and she can't get the right answers.

BURNETT: That's right, yes.

KING: It was a heck of a movie.

BURNETT: Yes, it was.

KING: Tough to do?

BURNETT: I was nervous about it, but David Greene was a wonderful director and he helped me a lot. And so I think I did OK. I'd like to go back and do it again.

You know, certain things I see myself doing, playing too close to the vest, so to speak. Not really letting myself out with stuff.

KING: Does aging limit roles?

BURNETT: Yes, unless you're going to play -- well see, me, it doesn't matter because I'm not a movie person. You know? But I know a lot -- there was a special on this past week with actresses talking about, you know, when you're 45 or 50, it's like forget it. But that doesn't happen to the men.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with the wonderful Carol Burnett. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BURNETT: Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you'd like to live in Washington D.C.?

RONALD REAGAN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Now, just between us, and I don't want to make anyone mad and I know this show doesn't stop at the California borders, but I can't understand anyone who'd want to live any place but in California.



KING: How un-prophetic.


KING: You were friends?

BURNETT: Yes. Well, actually, more with Nancy. She was very, very sweet.

KING: A hell of a lady.

BURNETT: Yes. And they would call me on Saturday nights after the show, after they had seen the show.

KING: They watched shows.

BURNETT: Yes. And she would call -- Nancy would call and say, oh, we loved that sketch and we loved this, and so forth.

KING: The passing of Bob Hope.

BURNETT: Oh, well.

KING: Did you ever work with him?

BURNETT: Yes. Yes, I worked with him on a Bing Crosby special and a couple of his specials. And he came on my show as a surprise guest once to surprise Bing when Bing was my guest.

KING: What was it like to work with him?

BURNETT: Oh, he was -- well, he's a master, you know, had his timing. You know? He was really, you know, good.

KING: And also, is Woody Allen correct in calling him a "great comedic actor"?

BURNETT: I don't know about that, because I never saw Bob do any stretching. I think he was always Bob Hope. But that could have been acting. You don't know.

But I wish he had done more. I think there were some scenes in "The Seven Little Foys" that he did have...

KING: When he loses his wife.


KING: Not paying attention to her and...

BURNETT: It was good to see him do that. I wish he had done more.

KING: You recently told "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" "I really was born at the right time. Today, I'd never get the opportunities. I was always aware of how fortunate I was."

You wouldn't get opportunities today?

BURNETT: Not like we had, not like having a show being nurtured the way we were nurtured.

KING: That's true.

BURNETT: You know, it's a different ballgame now. I think it's harder for -- I think it's harder for kids to get started.

KING: Tell me about being married to Brian. He's 20 years younger than you. So you forgot what he knows.

BURNETT: He's a throwback, actually.

KING: Is he?

BURNETT: Yes. All my buddies and friends say, "You know, he's older than you are." He's a musician and a contractor. He hires -- he's the personnel manager for The Hollywood Ball.

KING: Oh really?


KING: How did you meet?

BURNETT: We met when he was working in a show that I did in Long Beach 11 years ago. So we've been buddies. And he was contracting the orchestra for that and drumming for it. And so...

KING: Is he a good stepfather?

BURNETT: Oh, well...

KING: It's hard to be, isn't it?

BURNETT: Well, the kids are funny with him. They call him "Uncle Daddy." I put a stop to that, but he's I think one of the funniest people I've ever known in my life. Just absolutely brilliant sense of humor and knows every old movie in the world.

KING: Really?

BURNETT: As I say, total throwback, loves all of that. I think there's a bit of a soul mate in there for me, yes.

KING: So a lot of laughs in the marriage?

BURNETT: Oh gosh, yes. Yes. He's very funny.

KING: Is it still a hoot to make people laugh?


KING: It never gets old hat?

BURNETT: No, never.

KING: So when you do something, and whether it's in a room or a stage, they laugh, that's still (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BURNETT: I get that little bubbly feeling, which is like a little helium balloon in there.

KING: It's like when "I love you." You can't make someone laugh.

BURNETT: I don't think so.

KING: You can't shake them and say laugh.

BURNETT: I want to see you laugh.

KING: Right. So this is funny; you've got to laugh, right? So when you get it, it's a great source of...

BURNETT: Of acceptance. And that's what we all want in life is love and acceptance.

KING: How about when you had to work and didn't feel like working?

BURNETT: It's tough.

KING: You had to do a sketch and it was a bad day?

BURNETT: The toughest for me was when I did Broadway and you have to do eight shows a week. And maybe you don't feel so well.

KING: Wednesday matinee.

BURNETT: Whatever, you know? You can have a headache or you feel a cold coming on or something like that. You have to -- you just have to go out there and overcome it and then collapse. That's part of the game.

KING: Do you like Broadway as much as anything you do?

BURNETT: No. Actually, I don't like having to do eight shows a week. I would go back and do Broadway in a minute if they'd just let me do matinees.

KING: Just matinees?

BURNETT: I would love to go back and do the matinees and then, you know, have a life.

KING: Well, some talent now can get to where you work four shows a week or five, maybe.

BURNETT: Well, I did do seven, which was a little more civilized.

KING: Do you still do your one lady appearances? Do you go around?

BURNETT: I don't do them that often, maybe two or three a year.

KING: Will you speak to a group and take questions?

BURNETT: I don't even speak. I just say, "Let's turn off the lights and get going." And people start -- because they're used to that from having seen my show. You know?

And of course mostly they want to ask about Harvey and Tim. Harvey, incidentally, of course, is just about one of the best -- is the best comedic sketch artist.

KING: Because?

BURNETT: He is a consummate actor. And he gets to the nitty gritty of that character, and then he's just got the timing. He's got -- so he is really -- we did a sketch a long time ago where he was -- oh, it was take-off on "The Most Happy Fellow." And he was the Italian husband.

I think he had a book and he not only did the Italian accent, but he made him northern Italian, for himself.

KING: That's...

BURNETT: To do -- he is just brilliant.

KING: You're something.

BURNETT: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, darling.

Carol Burnett. OK, the memoir "One More Time" has now been reissued by Random House in trade paperback with a new afterward by Carol. And you'll see her the first week in December when she is one of this year's Kennedy Center honorees. The others are Loretta Lynn, Mike Nichols -- good timing -- James Brown and Itzhak Perlman. Harvey and Tim will not present Itzhak.

Thank you. I hope you've enjoyed this. And I'll be back in a minute and tell you about the weekend. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, a wonderful hour with a wonderful lady. What a talent. Carol Burnett. Have a great rest of the weekend and we'll see you Monday night with another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for more news around the clock, on the most trusted name in news, CNN.


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