The Chicago Theatre was alive with laughter on a rainy June night, as comedy legend Carol Burnett, 85, conducted a Q&A with a sold out crowd. The audience, comprised of approximately 3,600 people ranging in ages with single digits to ages near triple, had the opportunity to ask Ms. Burnett their best questions.
The stage was set simply with three oriental rugs and a screen that would occasionally play clips from The Carol Burnett Show. After a few minutes of montage – including Q&As from the original show as well as Carol doing her fan-favorite Tarzan call – Burnett appeared on stage and was welcomed with a standing ovation from the crowd. While the large theater was filled with unfamiliar faces, Burnett made it feel as if it were a group of old friends hanging out and having a few laughs.
She began the show by talking about her days on Carol Burnett and about the co-stars she was so grateful to have worked with. She started off by paying tribute to the late Harvey Korman – in which she mentioned the way in which he would accidentally break character during skits. “Harvey held it together until it came to Tim Conway,” Carol said with a laugh before showing the infamous dentist sketch from the show.
In between answering fan questions, Burnett recalled funny and nostalgic stories from over the span of her career. Two of the memorable stories included Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews, respectively. The first was when she worked on a project with Matthau. Burnett initially found him to be cold and unapproachable, a feeling that rang through the first part of a lunch between the two actors. Matthau invited Burnett to lunch on the set and hit her with the question, “Why do you do all of this TV crap?” Rather than fumble and fold, Burnett questioned back, “Are all of the movies you make wonderful, or are they crap?” He admitted that not all of films were wonderful, to which Burnett responded, “It takes you weeks to make crap…it takes me five days.” She laughed and explained to the audience that Matthau did this on purpose as a way to really cut to the chase and get to know Burnett. (It wasn’t discussed whether their movie was wonderful or crap.)
Her next story was set against the backdrop of 1960s Washington D.C. when Burnett was invited to perform at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. LBJ was President at the time, and also invited Julie Andrews to perform. Burnett and Andrews were already good friends, and they, along with their husbands, were staying at the same hotel. On the night they all arrived, Andrews invited Burnett and her husband down to her room for hot chocolate. After hanging out for a bit, Andrews received a call that a mutual friend was about to arrive at the hotel. Andrews found out what floor he was on, and suggested to Burnett that they go outside the elevator doors in their robes and slippers and surprise the friend as he got off the elevator. Once they were in place, Andrews then suggested that it would be even funnier if she and Burnett were pretending to kiss. Moments later, the two were mock kissing when they heard the elevator doors open. However, they did not hear the laughter they expected from their friend, and instead looked up to find Secret Service making their way out of the elevator – escorting none other than Lady Bird Johnson. “Aren’t you Carol Burnett?” asked Lady Bird, surprised by what she’d just witnessed. “Yes,” Burnett said, embarrassed. “And this is Mary Poppins.”
During the Q&A, Burnett was posed a number of questions from fans varying in age. A 15 year-old girl, crying at the opportunity to talk to the Carol Burnett, asked for acting advice and how she can find the strength to do it. “Be prepared to be discouraged,” Burnett said. She then explained that this preparation will help push you to a point of success.
On the other end of the age spectrum, a 92 year-old woman asked, “What kind of vitality pills do you take?” Burnett busted out laughing and said, “Me?! What kind of vitality pills do YOU take?!”
Another question, one that’s likely asked often, was whether or not Burnett kept the infamous drape costume from her fan-favorite Gone With The Wind skit. She said no, but took this time to speak to the talents of costume designer Bob Mackie, and said that he made 65 costumes per week. That, with 276 shows, totaled to over 17,000 costumes for The Carol Burnett Show.
At the end of this live show, a compilation video played featuring all of the famous faces that graced the Carol Burnett stage over the years. Finally, a video played of the show’s classic scenes set to the tune of, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together”. Burnett sang the last few lines of the song before bowing to another standing ovation and exiting the stage.