Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Carol Burnett Cracks Up

By David Luhrssen
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The vaults housing the archives of CBS’ long-running “Carol Burnett Show” (1967-1978) must be bursting: every few months bring a new multi-disc DVD set.

The latest, “The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups,” includes 17 complete episodes plus over two hours of additional programming. Burnett was an all-around entertainer, a versatile trouper from the last days of old-school show biz. In any given episode she might sing a song or two beautifully and play several distinct characters convincingly. Her comic range was wide, her timing and body language impeccable. And each show was prefaced by a question and answer session with the audience, giving her an opportunity to be funny in unscripted situations.

With Vicki Lawrence as a kind of understudy, Burnett laughed it up with such regular co-stars as the hilariously grandiose Harvey Korman and deadpan Tim Conway. Many of the big non-rock stars of the era passed through as guests, sometimes repeatedly, including Carl Reiner, Roddy McDowell, Andy Griffith (singing gospel) and even Helen Reddy, lip synching to (of course) “I am Woman.”

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