Burnett receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005
|Born||Carol Creighton Burnett
April 26, 1933
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, singer, writer|
(m. 1955; div. 1962)
(m. 1963; div. 1984)
|Children||3, including Carrie, Jody and Erin Hamilton|
I was kind of shy as a kid. I was a pretty good student. I was a wallflower, or nerd, if you will.
My grandmother and I followed my mother here, to a house a block north of Hollywood Boulevard but a million miles away from Hollywood, if you know what I mean. We would hang out behind the ropes and look at the movie stars arriving at the premieres.
I think the hardest thing to do in the world, show-business-wise, is write comedy.
I can't tell a joke to save my soul. It's just not my thing, though I love to listen to jokes.
My favorite is doing the television show, as a variety show, every week. If the show wasn't that great one week, we could always come back and apologize, you know?
On the good days, my mother would haul out the ukulele and we'd sit around the kitchen table – it was a cardboard table with a linoleum top – and sing.
In '57, I got a job at the Blue Angel nightclub, and a gentleman named Ken Welch wrote all my material for me. I lived at a place called the Rehearsal Club that was actually the basis for a play called Stage Door.
I'm really not that funny in real life! But I am the best audience one could find. I love to laugh.
I wish my mother had left me something about how she felt growing up. I wish my grandmother had done the same. I wanted my girls to know me.
I love the writing. I love the idea of typing and seeing it on the computer and printing it out myself and, you know, moving sentences around. I like that.
But I didn't ask to have somebody nose around in my private life. I didn't even ask to be famous. All I asked was to be able to earn a living making people laugh.
My grandmother and I would go see movies, and we'd come back to the apartment – we had a one-room apartment in Hollywood – and I would kind of lock myself in this little dressing room area with a cracked mirror on the door and act out what I had just seen.
You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That's an education in itself.
It costs a lot to sue a magazine, and it's too bad that we don't have a system where the losing team has to pay the winning team's lawyers.
I'm glad I was born when I was. My time was the golden age of variety. If I were starting out again now, maybe things would happen for me, but it certainly would not be on a variety show with 28 musicians, 12 dancers, two major guest stars, 50 costumes a week by Bob Mackie. The networks just wouldn't spend the money today.
It's also selfish because it makes you feel good when you help others. I've been helped by acts of kindness from strangers. That's why we're here, after all, to help others.
My childhood was rough, we were poor and my parents were alcoholics, but nobody was mean. I knew I was loved. We were on welfare, but I never felt abandoned or unloved.
I very much enjoyed doing 'Law & Order,' playing a killer – that was fun, and they had a family feel around the set, so it was a happy show to do even though the subject matter was quite the opposite.
My grandmother and I saw an average of eight movies a week, double features, second run.
Originally, I came from Texas, and we lived on – I guess you'd call it welfare, what we called relief.
I do the 'New York Times' crossword puzzle every morning to keep the old grey matter ticking.
Well, I don't know how astute I am, but I did want to be a journalist when I was growing up.
My interesting diet tips are eat early and don't nosh between meals. I mean, I can pack it away.
Celebrity was a long time in coming; it will go away. Everything goes away.
I was once asked to do my Tarzan yell at Bergdorf Goodman, and a guard burst in with a gun! Now I only do it under controlled circumstances.
I had it in my contract with CBS, a very weird clause that was never written before and certainly not since, that if I wanted to do a variety show within the first five years of the contract, CBS would have to put it on for 30 shows.
I never regretted turning down anything, I never regretted losing a job because I always felt something else was out there.
You know, one wonderful thing that came out of my Enquirer experience is that, in my case, it was ruled tabloids are magazines. Which means they didn't have the protection that a newspaper has.
As far as sitcoms go, I thought Jenna Elfman in 'Dharma and Greg' was a wonderful physical comedienne who had great timing.
But I don't begrudge anybody, because I know how hard it is to have that dream and to make it happen, whether or not it's just to put a roof over your head and food on the table.
Everybody I know who is funny, it's in them. You can teach timing, or some people are able to tell a joke, though I don't like to tell jokes. But I think you have to be born with a sense of humor and a sense of timing.
I'm not always optimistic. You wouldn't have all cylinders cooking if you were always like Mary Poppins.