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Who is Carol Burnett?

Carol Burnett is an iconic figure in entertainment, renowned for her groundbreaking comedy and trailblazing television show, "The Carol Burnett Show." Her legacy includes multiple Emmys and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her humor and grace have influenced generations. How has she shaped the landscape of comedy? Join us as we explore her remarkable journey.
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Carol Creighton Burnett was born on 26 April 1933 in San Antonio, Texas. The only daughter of alcoholic parents, Carol went to live with her grandmother early on. Raised in a boarding house in Hollywood, California, Carol Burnett made up for her lack of friends by creating an imaginary sister modeled after Shirley Temple. In later years, she confessed to dressing up and running around the boarding house, trying to trick neighbors into believing the sister was real.

After graduating from the University of California, Carol Burnett landed a few secondary roles, mostly in theater, before moving on to New York City to tackle the comedy club circuit. She eventually moved on to small television roles and frequently appeared on variety shows. It was on such shows that Burnett became known for her singing parody, "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles." While this led to a part on the short-lived sitcom Stanley and other television spots, it wasn't until 1959 that Carol Burnett got her big break.

Carol Burnett spent most of her childhood in a boarding house in Hollywood.
Carol Burnett spent most of her childhood in a boarding house in Hollywood.

Carol Burnett was cast in the musical Once Upon a Mattress and on The Garry Moore Show almost simultaneously. While both roles were highly acclaimed, it was the plethora of characters she played on the Moore Show that eventually earned Burnett an Emmy in 1962. She was offered her own sitcom by her close friend Lucille Ball, but refused, afraid of being trapped into a single character. Instead, Carol Burnett continued with oddball comedy roles until CBS signed her for her own variety act, The Carol Burnett Show. The show became an instant hit and received 22 Emmy Awards.

The Carol Burnett Show ran until 1978. After it ceased production, Burnett concentrated on small television roles, both comedy and drama. In the mid-1990s, she landed a recurring role as Theresa Stemple, the mother of Helen Hunt's character on the successful sitcom Mad About You. She also made brief cameo appearances in All My Children, Fresno, Mama's Family, and more recently, Desperate Housewives.

Carol Burnett has been married three times and had three daughters. Her oldest, Carrie Hamilton, died of lung cancer in January 2002. Carol lives in Hawaii with her third husband, musician Brian Miller.

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Discussion Comments


On every episode of “The Carol Burnett Show”, she ended with an ear-tug sign-off. She said that she did that in recognition of her grandmother who raised her.

Burnett also said that Jim Nabors was a good-luck charm to her. He was asked to appear on the first episode of each season of “The Carol Burnett Show”.


My mother had a large Carol Burnett collection that includes videos, books, and tons of memorabilia. I read some of the books and found out many things about Carol Burnett that I did not know.

When she was in high school, she served as editor of the school newspaper. She considered becoming a journalist. When she was getting started in acting, a benefactor gave her $1000 with the stipulation that she never reveal his name and that she help others in the same way once she became successful. Now, every year, she gives $1000 to an outstanding musical-theater student at UCLA.

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    • Carol Burnett spent most of her childhood in a boarding house in Hollywood.
      By: Andrew Bayda
      Carol Burnett spent most of her childhood in a boarding house in Hollywood.