Carol Burnett hired Vicki Lawrence to be on her show right after she graduated high school. The young actress learned the ropes during her time on “The Carol Burnett Show,” and Carol took on the role of mentor. Thankfully, Carol was always on Vicki’s side and advocated for her a lot during the course of the show.
Carol Burnett looked out for Vicki Lawrence so much that it even upset some of the cast and crew of the show. One time a couple of writers stormed off set when Carol criticized them for not giving Vicki enough of the funny lines.
A True Pioneer
Hollywood has always been focused on looks and other superficial markers of talent. When Carol Burnett burst onto the scene in the 1960s, many producers and executives didn’t think she had what it took to “make it” in Hollywood. That’s basically a nice way of saying they didn’t think she was “pretty” enough to be a star.
Carol remained true to who she was, despite men in the business saying she was “too loud” and had “too big” of a personality. It was those very characteristics that made her comedy stand out. She became the first woman to host a comedy variety show and paved the way for many female comics that came after her.
Carol Burnett’s Number One Fan
Vicki Lawrence was lucky enough to land a spot on “The Carol Burnett Show” after writing Carol a letter. Others were not as lucky. A 10-year-old Jim Carrey wrote a hopeful letter to Carol asking if he could be an actor on the show. Jim knew he wanted to be a comedian even at such a young age. He knew “The Carol Burnett Show” could be his big break.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the reply he wanted from Carol. The famous comedian replied to Jim’s letter: "At this time, we aren’t hiring children. Just grown-ups. But stay in school, study hard, and keep watching our show.” Jim and Carol did eventually work together for her “50th Anniversary Special” in 2017.
Mrs. Wiggins’ Skirt
Mrs. Wiggins is one of Carol Burnett’s most recognizable characters. The air-headed secretary to Mr. Tudball would always enter a scene with a very unique waddle that became a comedic bit in and of itself. It turns out that Carol didn’t know how she would embody the character of Mrs. Wiggins until she tried on the costume.
Costume designer Bob Mackie intentionally made Mrs. Wiggins’ black skirt too big. As a result, must to her dismay, Carol had to walk with her derriere sticking out and her back arched. This walk of necessity turned into Mrs. Wiggins’ signature strut and defining feature.
A Bathroom Revelation
In “The Family,” Vicki Lawrence plays Mama, and Carol Burnett plays Eunice, Mama’s daughter. The two actresses had excellent on-screen chemistry, but not everything about this famous sketch was rehearsed on-stage. The two women found some character inspiration in one of the most unlikely of places: the bathroom.
One time the two women took a bathroom break and ended up yelling at each other from their respective stalls. They soon realized that the yelling match, which started off as a joke, was a great match in chemistry for their “Family” characters. They took that nagging energy and channeled it into their bickering counterparts.