Carol Burnett: The Mark Twain Prize
Watch Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 3:30pm on WMHT TV.
The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize salutes Carol Burnett. Taped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 20, the two-hour special features a star-studded cast of Burnett’s friends and colleagues including top entertainers, Julie Andrews, Lucie Arnaz, Tony Bennett, Tim Conway, Tina Fey, Rashida Jones, Vicki Lawrence, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Rosemary Watson, Bruce Vilanch and special appearances by Ellen DeGeneres and Carl Reiner. The evening pays tribute to the humor and accomplishments of the television icon.
Upon learning she would receive the Mark Twain Prize, Carol Burnett remarked, “I can’t believe I’m getting a humor prize from the Kennedy Center. It’s almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington.”
Carol Burnett, award-winning actress and best-selling author, is widely recognized by the public and her peers for her work on stage and screen, most notably The Carol Burnett Show. Named in 2007 by TIME magazine as one of “100 Best Television Shows of All Time,” The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 years, averaged 30 million viewers per week, and received 25 Emmy Awards, making it one of the most honored shows in television history. But it is Carol’s artistic brilliance, her respect and appreciation of her fans, and her graciousness, integrity, warmth, and humor on and off screen that have made her one of the most beloved performers in entertainment and one of the most admired women in America.
As a highly-acclaimed actress known for her comedic and dramatic roles on television, film and Broadway, Carol has been honored with 12 People’s Choice Awards, eight Golden Globes, six Emmy Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, the Peabody Award for Friendly Fire, and the Ace Award for Between Friends with Elizabeth Taylor. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is a Kennedy Center honoree, and has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. In 2013, the City of Los Angeles proclaimed the intersection of Highland Ave. and Selma, directly adjacent Hollywood High School, Carol’s alma mater, Carol Burnett Square.
Carol has penned three New York Times Bestsellers, Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story, about Burnett and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection and her autobiography, One More Time, for which she received national critical acclaim for her writing skills and story-telling talent. In 2010, the audiobook for This Time Together earned Carol her first Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word. Time Life released The Carol Burnett Show on DVD in September 2012 and set a record, selling more than four million DVDs in six months. A comprehensive collector’s edition boxed set is available exclusively through timelife.com.
In 2013, Carol co-starred opposite lifelong friends, Betty White and Tim Conway, on TV Land’s hit series Hot in Cleveland. She also co-starred opposite Jane Lynch in the FOX television smash-hit Glee, when she created the role of “Sue Sylvester’s” mother and she received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal as a murderess on Law and Order: SVU. Carol can be heard alongside Jim Carrey and Steve Carell as the voice of “Kangaroo” in 20th Century FOX’s animated feature, Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who. She also voiced the character of “Hara” in Disney’s animation adventure The Secret World of Arrietty, co-starring Amy Poehler and Will Arnett.
As a lifelong fan of All My Children, Carol reprised her role as “Verla Grubbs” for the fourth and final time in September 2011, during the 41-year old soap’s final month on air. Burnett first appeared as “Verla”, the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford, in 1983. She returned in 1995 for the 25th anniversary show and again in 2005, to mark the show’s 35th anniversary. She also hosted the 25th anniversary All My Children primetime special.
In 2000, Carol added playwright to her credits when she and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, began writing a play together based on Carol’s autobiography. Sadly, her daughter passed away from cancer four months prior to the play’s premiere at the Chicago Goodman Theatre in April 2002. But Carrie’s dream was fulfilled when Hollywood Arms, directed by Hal Prince, premiered on Broadway at The Cort Theatre on October 31, 2002. Carol has since established The Carrie Hamilton Foundation to honor her daughter’s memory and her passion for the performing arts.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Carol moved to a less-than-glamorous section of Hollywood, where her grandmother raised her and her younger sister. Living in reduced circumstances but dreaming of college, Carol received an anonymous donation of $50 to pay for her tuition to UCLA. While studying journalism, Carol took an acting class, and the rest is history.
After she moved to New York City, she had a rough beginning because jobs were tough until Carol staged her own musical revue, featuring her out-of-work roommates from a theatrical boarding house performing material by unemployed writers and composers. Soon offers for summer stock and 13 weeks' work on Paul Winchell's TV show followed. While performing at The Blue Angel, she was spotted by talent bookers from both The Jack Paar Show and The Ed Sullivan Show and was invited to perform her infamous rendition of "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” on television. Shortly thereafter, Carol landed the leading role of “Princess Winifred” in the original Broadway musical production of Once Upon A Mattress. In 1959, after guest spots on Garry Moore's morning TV show, she became a permanent cast member on The Garry Moore Show, taping the show during the day and performing Mattress at night for the remainder of its Broadway run. Carol remained a regular on Garry Moore for the next four years.
During this period, Carol met Julie Andrews and the two became close friends. After the duo appeared in their Emmy-winning special, Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, CBS took notice of this emerging new talent and signed her to a 10-year contract. On September 11, 1967, The Carol Burnett Show premiered on CBS. With a talented ensemble featuring Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, costumes by Bob Mackie and music by Buz Kohan and Ken and Mitzie Welch, the show became a hit. Guest stars included many of the greatest performers from music, stage and screen including Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Ronald Reagan, Betty White, Cher, Jim Nabors, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, The Carpenters, Rock Hudson, Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda, and many, many more. Carol’s portrayal of “Starlet O’Hara” in “Went With The Wind,” a parody of Gone With The Wind, is always counted among the top 10 greatest moments in television history. The “curtain-rod” dress, as it is known, now resides at The Smithsonian. In 2012, Time Life released The Carol Burnett Show on DVD and set a record, selling more than four million DVDs in six months.
After the show concluded in 1978, Carol immersed herself in numerous projects. Her film projects included playing “Miss Hannigan” in the film version of the musical, Annie, directed by John Huston, Noises Off, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman, and Four Seasons, directed by Alan Alda. She starred in the television series Fresno and Carol & Co. as well as the highly acclaimed made-for-TV movies Friendly Fire and Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice. Carol has also produced and starred in numerous television specials. And in 2005, she returned to her Once Upon A Mattress roots, appearing in a television special, this time playing the evil “Queen Aggravain.” Her Broadway credits include Fade Out, Fade In, book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green with music by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim's musical revue Putting It Together and Ken Ludwig’s farce Moon Over Buffalo starring with Philip Bosco.
When not performing or occasionally touring the country in her Q & A format "Laughter & Reflection," she enjoys spending time with her husband Brian, her two daughters Erin and Jody, her grandchildren, and her cat Mabel. As a passionate supporter of the arts and education, she has also established several scholarships around the country, including “The Carol Burnett Musical Theatre Competition” at her alma mater, UCLA.
Carol Burnett is the 16th recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Past recipients of the prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011) and Ellen DeGeneres (2012).