Now, to talk about someone you might NOT know.
You’ve probably heard her voice while watching Horton Hears a Who! on FX again. Teenie-boppers probably know her as Sue Sylvester’s mother on Glee! But, maybe, if you’re anything like me, have seen her on Annie (1982) at least 1,000 times as a child.
Yeah that’s right, I’m writing about Ms. Hannanigan.
Or at least that’s how we know her.
After all, 1990 wasn’t THAT long ago. Carol Burnett is what we like to call, “a veteran in the game.” When Jim Carrey sends you his resume at ten yrs old, REELGirls! will pay nothing but respect.
Carol Burnett was born to two acute alcoholics in 1933 in San Antonio, TX. When her parents divorced shortly after, she moved just outside of Hollywood, CA with her grandmother in a boarding house. She won a scholarship to UCLA for journalism, but switched to Theater Arts and English to become a playwright. “I wasn’t really ready to do the acting thing, but I had no choice.” That was until after her first performance, describing the laughter of the crowd. “All of a sudden, after so much coldness and emptiness in my life, I knew the sensation of all that warmth wrapping around me,” she explains. “I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you’ll hear a laugh that great again.”
Thus, Carol continued to perform. In 1954, she and her boyfriend were offered a spot in New York City to live and pursue their dreams. She spent her first year in New York as a hat check girl, and failing at acting auditions. Not giving up, Carol snagged two roles that pushed her to stardom on two shows, most notably Stanley. On Stanley, Carol Burnett would debut her her parody number “I Made a Fool Out of Myself for John Foster Dulles” (sec of state at the time) before performing it on The Tonight Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Carol then snowballed into success. She performed on and Off Broadway in plays including Once Upon a Mattress for which she received her first Tony Award. Television success followed starring on 46 episodes of The Garry Moore Show, Julie and Carol and Carnegie Hall, and debut in her first film, Bewitched (1964).
I Love Lucy's Lucille Ball then became Carol Burnett's mentor and friend. Carol gained a guest star appearance on the show before starring in her own. The Carol Burnett Show debuted in 1967. The variety show ran for 11 years (ending March of 1978) and garnered 22 Emmy Awards. The network did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety. However, Burnett’s contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. Her program was the last truly successful major network variety show to date.
Carol continued to appear in theater, films and television, starring in comedies and dramas alike. She earned another Emmy nomination for her role in Friendly Fire, and slowly crossed over into movies…including Annie.
And she’s still at it! Women actors and writers alike last a couple of decades at most in comedy. (And that’s gracious.) Carol Burnett, acting since 22 years old (and now 78!) is living proof that women can achieve success in the media for how ever long they want! It’s never easy. There’s always a thousand “no’s” before one “yes,” and then hearing a thousand more. But never impossible. To honor that, today we pay the utmost respect to comedy queen and role-model, Carol Burnett.