CAROL BURNETT

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CAROL BURNETT by Tim Sullivan

Today's fierce female is Carol Burnett.

Born in 1933, both of her parents suffered from alcoholism. She was taken in by her grandmother who raised her in Hollywood. She worked as a usher before receiving an anonymous envelope addressed to her with $50 in it. That paid for her first year’s tuition at UCLA.

Carol initially set out to become a playwright, in part because her mother discouraged her from pursuing a career acting. “She wanted me to be a writer. She said you can always write, no matter what you look like.” When she took her first acting class as was required for the playwriting degree, she knew she could never turn her back on performing.

After moving to New York City, Carol managed to get by with a few bit parts in TV shows, including starring opposite Buddy Hackett in his short-lived sitcom, Stanley. She performed in night clubs, on the Today Show, and game shows. Her big break came when she was cast as the lead in Once Upon a Mattress. That led to her joining the cast of the Garry Moore Show, a variety show where she became one of its most popular performers.

Carol starred in a highly-rated special with Julie Andrews at Carnegie Hall. Her popularity caused CBS to lock her into a ten-year contract, which Carol used to her advantage to pitch her own show. The network was very reluctant to allow a woman to host a variety show, as it had never been done before, and they instead tried to get her to accept another sitcom role. She refused to give in, and The Carol Burnett Show was born.

The Carol Burnett Show would run for over ten years, be nominated for 23 Emmy Awards, and be one of the most popular shows of its time. Its influence can be felt in shows like Saturday Night Live, and Carol’s enduring legacy as one of the funniest people on the planet has inspired many women writers and comedians to follow in her footsteps.

Ever mindful of how she got her start, Carol makes substantial donations to universities’ scholarship programs, including her alma mater, UCLA. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, and this year she became the inaugural recipient of the Carol Burnett Award for Lifetime Achievement in Television at the Golden Globes.

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

“Nobody goes through life without a scar.”

“If someone tells you that you cannot do something and you believe it, they are right.”

“No one ever said life is fair. Just eventful.”

“You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That's an education in itself.”


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