The Carol Burnett show went off the air 10 years before I was born and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single episode outside of a clip of the Gone with the Wind parody. However, we have established I will read any memoir written by a smart, funny woman and this was an interesting read with lots of behind the scenes details.
Carol had a contract with CBS in the 60s that included a “pay or play” clause regarding a minimum of 30 episodes of a musical variety show. Neither party really believed Carol would ever “push the button” so to speak but right before the deal expired Carol was pregnant with a mortgage and no job on the horizon so she did. The network was hesitant but their hands were tied. Carol tapped a seventeen year old Vickie Lawrence, whom she connected with when Vickie wrote her a fan letter inviting her to a pageant she was in, and Harvey Korman from the Danny Kaye show. The handsome announcer, Lyle Waggoner, and frequent guest turned main cast member, Tim Conway, rounded out their merry band of misfits.
Carol goes on to share stories about the cast and crew as well as the various guest stars the show hosted over eleven seasons. She talks about the creation of some of her most popular characters, namely Eunice from the Mama’s Family sketches and the painstaking detail that went into parodying classic movies and their tropes.
Her husband, Joe, was a producer on the show but Carol was also a showrunner and she talks about how hard it was to balance being a boss and not being labeled a bitch or diva. She also discusses how impossible The Carol Burnett Show would be today; besides the 20 minute or longer sketches they did the music rights to all the song & dance numbers they performed would bankrupt a network show nowadays.
I listened to the audiobook of In Such Good Company and I highly recommend it. Carol reads her own memoir, and is very animated, but also includes the audio of Vickie and Harvey from interviews she references as well as her final goodbye from the last show.