When comedy legend Carol Burnett, 83, takes the stage of the Kimmel Center on April 11, it will be a throwback to The Carol Burnett Show that aired from the late 1960s into the ’70s.
Only this time around, it’s not so much work.
The Carol Burnett Show was something that doesn’t happen on television anymore. It was an expensive production involving a 28-piece orchestra in front of a live audience, with as many as 70 costume changes in the hour-long show.
It always opened with Burnett taking random questions from the audience. Her answers were off the cuff — unprepared and unrehearsed.
“I was really nervous about it the first time we taped it, because had never done anything like that before,” said Burnett in a telephone interview.
“The executive producer suggested it because, he said, ‘Carol, you know you’re going to be in all those fright wigs and fat suits and blacking out your teeth, wearing those crazy costumes and being crazy characters. It would really behoove you to come out and be yourself at the beginning of the show so people get to know you. And then you can do all the crazy stuff,'” she said.
The show went off the air in 1978. For many years now, Burnett has gone out on the road with a stage show that is nothing but answering audience questions; there are no sketches, no guests, and no orchestra.
She does not feel compelled to make her answers funny, but funny tends to happen.
“Really, I’m not a standup. It’s not a one-woman show. The audience is my partner,” said Burnett. “I fly without a net, just like we did on my show. There are no pre-planned, or planted questions. I never know what anybody’s going to come up with and ask. It’s risky, but it’s fun for me to do because it keeps the old grey matter ticking.”
Burnett may be returning to the small screen soon. The ABC network has picked up a pilot episode of a new TV show in development with Amy Poehler, tentatively called “Household Name.”