Carol Burnett Takes Us Behind the Scenes of Her 90th Birthday Bash
Funny is funny, and comedy icon Carol Burnett knows that like no other. She’s been making people laugh since she took the stage in 1959 on The Garry Moore Show, who she credits for being her best mentor. Now the cherished, ear-tugging phenomenon humbly takes a seat in the audience (and also takes the stage), this time at the Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles, where stars pay tribute to her work and celebrate her 90th birthday in NBC’s two-hour special Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love airing Wednesday, April 26 at 8pmET.
This once-in-a-lifetime party has a guest list like no other that includes Vicki Lawrence, Julie Andrews, Bob Mackie, Lily Tomlin, Susan Lucci, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Cher, Ellen DeGeneres, Kristen Wiig, Sofia Vergara, Steve Carell and so many others. Some of the musical tributes include “Old Friends” dedicated to Carol’s 60-year friendship with Julie Andrews, highlights from Annie and “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.”
Just a week after filming the special, Carol talked to us about turning 90 (“It’s hard to wrap my head around it, but considering the alternative, I am feeling great”), some of the more tear-jerker moments in the special (a grown-up Aileen Quinn singing “Tomorrow” from Annie) and more.
Here are six things to look forward to on NBC’s Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love on Wednesday, April 26.
1. This Isn’t A Party, It’s a Variety Show!
“There were no balloons and cakes and confetti or any of that. I didn’t want it,” Carol tells us. “It was a roast. It was a variety show with live entertainment. We had a 19-piece orchestra!”
Just like the old days on The Carol Burnett Show, where she’s pictured with Harvey Korman, Jim Nabors and Vicki Lawrence during their 1967-78.
2. Stars, Stars and More Stars Come Out to Celebrate Carol
“We had entertainment from Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Porter, Jane Lynch, Katy Perry, Darren Criss, Sutton Foster [the list goes on]. I mean, unbelievable.” [Pictured below are Katy Perry and Allison Janney.]
“There was just so many. And Marisa Tomei comes out dressed as Mrs. Wiggins in the Bob Mackie segment. Bob and Vicki were there, of course. We pay homage to Harvey Korman and Tim Conway and Lyle Waggoner; and Vicki and Bob. … We could have had a 40-hour show when you want to do the best of Harvey, Tim and Vicki.”
3. It Wouldn’t Be a “Carol” Celebration Without Plenty of Schtick
“We had people get up and do some shtick, little bits, like Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney and Laura Dern, whom I worked with recently when we did a television series for Apple TV+ (Palm Royale). … It was a kind of a retrospective of stuff that I’d done all these years, starting with way back when I was on Omnibus with Leonard Bernstein. It was 1956. I was in my 20s. And then to do the movies that I did, the television specials, the musical specials, and of course The Carol Burnett Show, and then clips from Better Call Saul and Palm Royale [formerly titled Mrs. American Pie].” She’s pictured below with the cast of The Carol Burnett Show – Vicki Lawrence, Carol, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.
3. Her Best Buddy, Julie Andrews, Was By Her Side
“My chum Julie Andrews flew out and she sat with me for the whole evening.”
Julie and Carol have a long history performing together, below is a shot of the duo at Carnegie Hall in 1962.
4. There Wasn’t A Dry Eye In the House When …
“It was very, very funny and entertaining and a little teary-eyed, too, especially when they did a tribute to the movie Annie and then Aileen Quinn was there, who was the original little Annie. She belted out ‘Tomorrow’ and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was so sweet. So I was pretty gobsmacked by the whole thing, and it’ll live with me forever.”
5. The Show Introduces Carol to New Friends, Too
“To make a new friend with Billy Porter. Oh my God, he blew it out [of the water],” she teases. “He was so good. He did ‘Easy Street’ from Annie.” [Porter is pictured below with Darren Criss and Cher.]
6. The Open, The Close and Carol Singing
Steve Carell came out and opened the show. Plenty of Carol’s friends got up and spoke too. “Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn and Vince Gilligan, all the Better Call Saul folks were there,” Carol says.
While Carol admits she still sings in the shower, she will be taking the stage at the end of the show. “I do sing the last few bars of ‘I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.’ Katy Perry does the whole song at the end of the evening, and then she sits next to me and just hands me the mic and I just do the last ‘Comes the time we have to say so long.’ And I have to say I choked up a bit.”
Check back again for more of our interview with Carol Burnett as we get closer to her birthday celebration.