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Carol Burnett

First Woman Variety Show Host

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Carol Burnett on her young Hollywood dreams and her barrier-breaking series, The Carol Burnett Show.
A child of Hollywood, but not of means, Carol Burnett had to fight her way into the playwright program at UCLA. An acting class was a requirement and Burnett would always remember her first encounter with an audience: “I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you'll hear a laugh that great again.” She spent the 1960s garnering acclaim for both her musical and comedic abilities.  It earned her the deal that made her the first female host of a TV sketch and variety show with The Carol Burnett Show.    The series’ 1967-’78 run made it the last (to date) successful prime-time variety hour and remains one of the most beloved and respected of all time. Her irresistible villainess Miss Hannigan in the 1982 film of Annie is similarly enduring. They’re only two highlights of a career that includes 12 People’s Choice awards, eight Golden Globes, six Emmys, Kennedy Center honors, the Horatio Alger Award, a Peabody, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Just for good measure, Burnett has authored two New York Times best sellers, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection and her autobiography, One More Time.

More From Carol

Meeting Jimmy Stewart
Burnett talks about the happy surprise she got at the final taping of The Carol Burnett Show.

Supporting the ERA
On Alan Alda pulling her into the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Last Show
Burnett describes the bittersweet end of The Carol Burnett Show after its ten-year run.

Mystery College Patron
For Burnett, true life was stranger than fiction. She reveals the miraculous way she was able to pay for college.

The Agent / Booking Catch-22
You need an agent to get a gig, but you need a gig to lure an agent. Burnett describes the enterprising way she got around this catch-22.

Getting in Character
An actor's trick: Burnett reflects on the power of costumes to get you in character.

Learning to Stay Humble
Burnett describes the moment that forever taught her to keep her ego in check.

Dealing with Rejection
You can't be an actress if you can't take rejection.  Burnett reveals how she coped until her own big break.   

Ticket to New York
Burnett tells the story of a mystery patron who helped her pursue her Broadway dreams.