Carol Burnett is the red-headed comedy queen of television who followed the legendary Lucille Ball.
Although nobody could make America laugh harder than Lucy, Burnett came to take her place as television royalty when she created The Carol Burnett Show.
This iconic 1970s show acted as the predecessor to the modernly popular Saturday Night Live, offering audiences a combination of skit-based comedy and short musical acts from an entire cast of comedians.
Is Carol Burnett Still Alive?
Yes, Carol Burnett is still alive and well. Despite her acting career beginning in the 1950s, she is still acting to this day.
Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas on April 26th of 1933 to Ina Louise Creighton and Joseph Thomas Burnett.
However, she wouldn’t spend much time with her parents due to their acute alcoholism and was sent to live with her grandmother.
Burnett and her grandmother were incredibly close and bonded over the Golden Age of cinema while they were living in a Hollywood boarding house.
The effect that Burnett’s grandmother would have on her would save her from a life of struggling with addiction herself and gave her the road map of what to do if she were to ever fall into a situation like her grandmother’s.
Carol Burnett was shy and sensitive as a child, but she overcame her fearful nature when she began acting in her high school theater club.
From an early age, Burnett discovered that her favorite roles were the ones that made people laugh the hardest.
After high school, Burnett attended the University of California to study journalism.
However, her natural talent and love of entertainment inspired her to change majors from journalism to theater.
While looking for comedy roles around Hollywood, Burnett would often perform in nightclubs.
She was noticed by Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan after a nightclub performance in which she sang her original song, I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles. Dulles was the Secretary of State at the time.
Despite her entertainment career starting in the 1950s, Burnett is still acting to this day.
Getting Her Start As An Actress
Before Carol Burnett started acting on television, she wanted to be a Broadway actress.
Burnett didn’t ever think that her dream would come true due to financial struggles and how costly it was to get from Hollywood to New York City.
During her college years, Burnett would put on private shows at people’s houses around Hollywood.
She would often get asked what she intended to do after her graduation, which is when she’d discuss wanting to act in shows on Broadway.
After one of her private shows in San Diego, a predominant businessman and his wife approached Burnett and offered to give her enough financial support to get her from Hollywood to New York City.
They were willing to give Burnett $1,000, but she would have to keep three promises to the couple.
The first promise was that she’d never tell anyone the names of her benefactors, and the second promise was that she’d only use the money to get to New York.
Saving the most important promise of all for last, the couple made her swear that she’d help other young entertainers in the same way that they were helping her.
Carol Burnett quickly made her way to New York City where she’d get her first notable role in an off-Broadway production of Once Upon a Mattress.
On the second night of the production, Burnett spotted Lucille Ball in the audience.
After the show was over, Ball found Burnett backstage and the comediennes hit it off immediately.
Before leaving, Ball told Burnett to call her if there was ever a time when she needed some help.
When CBS told Burnett that she could have a one-hour comedy special on their channel if she could find a famous guest, she called on none other than Lucille Ball to fill the bill.
Becoming The Comedy Queen Of Television
Gaining the approval of America’s favorite funny lady at the time was a massive step in the right direction for Carol Burnett.
Her first television appearance was on The Paul Winchell Show in 1955.
The first acting role on television that Burnett ever got was as Celia Howard on the 1950s comedy show Stanley, where she appeared with Buddy Hackett, Jane Connell, and Frederic Tozere.
By the 1960s, Carol Burnett was acting alongside Lucille Ball in The Lucy Show.
Burnett would play the recurring character Carol Bradford, who started out as Lucy’s roommate in the show.
Shortly after her time on The Lucy Show, she would go on to play Carol Barnes on Gomer Pyle: USMC.
When Lucille Ball would return to television screens across the United States with Here’s Lucy, Burnett would once again appear beside Ball and take on the character of Carol Krausmeyer.
By the 1960s, she had cemented her identity as one of the best female comedians of the time.
By 1967, Carol Burnett had earned herself her very own comedy show which she called The Carol Burnett Show.
Unlike Lucille Ball’s shows, The Carol Burnett Show didn’t follow one consistent story and was instead made up of a variety of skits and musical numbers.
Without The Carol Burnett Show, shows like Saturday Night Live may have never existed.
The cast consisted of Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Stan Mazin, Ernie Anderson, Lyle Waggoner, Don Crichton, and The Ernie Flatt Dancers.
Carol Burnett earned 40 different awards for the show, including Primetime Emmy Awards and Golden Globes.
Some of the show’s Emmy Awards include Outstanding Achievement in Special Musical Material, Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series, Outstanding Writing in Comedy-Variety or Music Series, and Outstanding Achievement in Choreography.
Carol Burnett On The Passing Of Betty White
When listing the best female comedy actresses, you can’t exclude Carol Burnett or Golden Girls actress and animal advocate Betty White.
Through their entertainment careers, Burnett and White frequently worked together and became close friends.
After hearing of Betty White’s passing on December 31, 2021, at the age of 99, Burnett was saddened to lose yet another longtime friend.
What has helped Burnett grieve the loss of her friend is the faith that White is now happily reunited with her own late husband Allen Ludden.
Burnett and White had been friends longer than White and Ludden had been together.
From the very beginning of their relationship, Burnett knew that Ludden was perfect for White and there was no one on the planet who made White happier.
White had been married twice before, but Burnett claims that White saw those marriages as mistakes.
Burnett was there to watch Betty White turn down multiple proposals from Allen Ludden, stating that White wanted to make sure that Ludden truly loved her before she’d accept his marriage proposal.
As Ludden began to get sicker and sicker from cancer, Burnett worried for her friend despite her soldiering through each day with a smile on her face.
Betty White would appear on set and then immediately leave after filming to go stay with her husband in the hospital.
Burnett saw firsthand how the loss of White’s husband affected her.
Ludden and White had always been so devoted to each other that not having him around constantly wore heavily on White’s heart.
Despite the personal struggles that Betty White faced, Burnett watched her friend focus on the love of animals and entertainment to keep her going.
When White suddenly passed away, Burnett was happy to know her friend was back with the best love of her life.
Struggling With Multigenerational Addiction
Addiction would prove to be a common problem for Carol Burnett’s family.
Her history with addiction started with her parents’ acute alcoholism, which resulted in Burnett going on to live with her grandmother.
While her parents struggled with their addiction to alcohol, Burnett’s daughters Carrie and Erin Hamilton would go on to struggle with an addiction to drugs.
Although Carol Burnett had never been a drug user, she was devastated when her oldest daughter began to abuse drugs.
When Carrie Hamilton’s name first became popular, it wasn’t because of her acting but rather her addiction to Quaaludes and cocaine.
For two years, Hamilton fought her addiction and the negative attention she had attracted.
Hamilton’s drug problems would later be listed as one of the reasons that Carol Burnett and her husband Joe Hamilton decided to terminate their marriage.
It was helping her daughter through her drug addiction that grew the powerful bond between Burnett and her eldest daughter.
Carrie Hamilton would use her years as an adult more wisely and went on to become a popular television actress before she passed away from brain and lung cancer at the age of 38.
However, this wouldn’t be Burnett’s last run-in with addiction in the family.
In 2020, Carol Burnett’s youngest daughter Erin Hamilton would begin struggling with her own drug addiction.
Due to her daughter’s addiction, Burnett and husband Brian Miller began seeking guardianship of her 14-year-old grandson.
In the same way that Burnett’s grandmother took her when her parents’ addictions became too much, Burnett hopes to help her grandson and her daughter.
Her advice to anyone with a child who is struggling with drug addiction is to love your child enough to let them hate you if it means they get the treatment they need.
Helping Others Fight Addiction Across The World
Carol Burnett has devoted her life not only to entertainment, but to helping people fight their addictions.
In 1988, Burnett took her fight against addiction across the globe when she introduced Alcoholics Anonymous to the Soviet Union.
When Burnett made her international trip, there were 4.5 million registered alcoholics in the Soviet Union.
As a part of a campaign for Alcoholics Anonymous, Carol Burnett appeared in a feature film about alcohol abuse.
The film discussed how alcohol addiction had affected Burnett, who lost her parents to addiction and nearly lost her daughter to the same cause.
She also spent more than three hours on telephone calls with a Soviet newspaper that wanted to talk about what a program like Alcoholic Anonymous could truly do for the suffering country.
Although she was on the phone for three hours, each phone call wasn’t much longer than three minutes each.
She may have been speaking to people in a different country and language, but the way that addiction has affected families around the world rings the same.
In 1985, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cut back the country’s commercial alcoholic production in hopes of reducing the number of citizens suffering from alcoholism.
However, the citizens responded to the production cut by forming massive lines anywhere that sold alcohol and creating their own beverage called samogon.
By bringing over self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, President Gorbachev was desperate and made fighting alcoholism a top priority throughout his presidency.
The members of the Soviet-U.S. Joint Conference on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction were the ones who had recommended bringing Carol Burnett to the Soviet Union.
While visiting Moscow, Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton held a private meeting for recovering alcoholics.
When the Soviet branch of Alcoholics Anonymous began, there were only 20 members.
Keeping Her Promise And Giving Back
Carol Burnett is the perfect rags-to-riches story and is someone who continues to use her riches and popularity to give back to a multitude of causes.
She may best be known for fighting against substance abuse, but Burnett gives back to multiple causes.
One of Carol Burnett’s most recent charity events was Broadway Barks Across America.
Broadway Barks was founded by Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore in 1998, and the social event has become New York City’s biggest pet adoption event.
The biggest names in entertainment and Broadway come together to help get pets from across the country adopted.
There were more than 2,000 cats and dogs available for adoption at the event, and 85% of them were adopted during the event.
Alongside Carol Burnett, the guest list included Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close, Josh Groban, Harvey Fierstein, Lily Collins, Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Mackie, Hugh Jackman, Lea Salonga, and Charlie McDowell.
Due to the pandemic, this was the second year that the social event took place online instead of in person.
However, the celebrities were still excited to benefit animal rescues such as Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, and the Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue.
In 2014, Carol Burnett became the celebrity spokeswoman for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s Gold Ribbon Campaign.
The organization focuses on helping families who are affected by childhood cancer.
As a mother who has lost a daughter to cancer, Burnett knows how difficult it is for parents to watch their children suffer through one of the most deadly and painful diseases.
Through the support of celebrities, businesses, and medical professionals, the Golden Ribbon Campaign wanted to highlight how childhood cancer affects the entire family.
Her Plans For 2022
Carol Burnett may be 88 years old, but she has no intention of slowing down her entertainment career anytime soon.
She had planned to go on her tour Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection Where the Audience Asks Questions in 2020 but had to move the tour to 2022 after the pandemic hit.
Having stayed home to focus on her family, it has been a long time since Burnett has been on tour.
Although touring across the country may seem like too much for someone in her late 80s, Burnett claims she has missed touring.
The detail that Burnett was most excited about with her current tour was the way that the audience kept her on her toes with the questions that they’d ask.
It prevents each show from being too similar to the last.
With the passing of Betty White, many people are watching Hollywood’s long-running entertainers with bated breath.
However, Burnett has proven to her fans that she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Between keeping Americans entertained and supporting her grandson, Carol Burnett has more than enough in her life to keep her youthful and energetic.
She plans on entertaining the world and making it a better place until her last day on this planet.