Laughter and Reflection: An Evening with Carol Burnett | 11.05.10

If they cracked up in the middle of the skit, so what? We were laughing too, and that was just one more thing that endeared them to our hearts.

 
 
 
It was a chilly November night outside the Fox Theatre last Friday, but you’d never know it from the inside. Comedy legend Carol Burnett brought her show, Laughter and Reflection: An Evening with Carol Burnett to the Fabulous Fox, taking fans on a journey throughout her nearly six-decade career.
 
The show kicked off with the animated janitor character from the opening of the classic Carol Burnett Show, segueing into a montage of her Tarzan yell and clips of her entrances, showing off the very best of Bob Mackie’s colorful wardrobe designs. Burnett then finally took the stage, flashing that wonderfully silly and beautiful smile, looking fabulous as ever in another vintage Mackie original.
 
What made her 1967-1978 television show mean so much to so many people was always the warmth of the performers and the individual comedic skills they brought to the program. It was almost as if these incredible talents could let their hair down a bit and have as much as fun as the audience was having. If they cracked up in the middle of the skit, so what? We were laughing too, and that was just one more thing that endeared them to our hearts.
 
With that in mind, Burnett acknowledged the passing of an important member of the troupe, the late Harvey Korman. She mentioned that Korman found it near impossible to keep a straight face while working with another member of the gang, the inimitable Tim Conway. The cast would shoot the show twice, the first time for the cameras, the second time for the audience. During the second run of the night, Conway would always switch it up and surprise his cast mates with additions to the bits that were noticeably absent from rehearsals. To illustrate her point, she showed a clip of the first time this happened on the show—the famous “Dentist Office” sketch.
 
At that point, Burnett took questions from the audience, with help from students from Webster Conservatory who roamed the Fox with flashlights and microphones. Many questions started with “I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to Carol Burnett!” Fans used the opportunity to tell the iconic performer how she has touched their lives, and others simply thanked her for giving them so much laughter over the years. Some audience members were perhaps a bit too moved, as this began a series of “can I come up there and give you a hug?” requests. Burnett couldn’t have been any more gracious but, thankfully for the rest of us, she was able to move past this after a few hugs were doled out to the lucky faithful.
 
No show with Carol Burnett would be complete without a discussion of the Gone with the Wind parody, “Went with the Wind.” This sketch, of course, featured Burnett as Scarlett O’Hara modeling the infamous drapes-with-the-rod dress. One young fan showed up wearing an exact duplicate of this costume, much to Burnett’s delight, and she invited the young lady on stage to marvel at it and take a picture.   
 
At one point, a fan asked when Carol Burnett was going to host Saturday Night Live. Burnett said she had just guest-starred on an episode of Glee as Sue Sylvester’s mother, but humbly stated: "I don’t think I can top Betty White. She was so good."
 
When another fan asked if there was still something in show business she would like to do, she wasted no time in saying “George Clooney,” much to the delight of the gathered throng.
 
After showing a musical montage of classic duets with the likes of Ray Charles, Bing Crosby and Cher, Burnett topped off the night by inviting the Webster Conservatory students onto the Fox stage to sing a song of their choice. When they asked her to join in on the song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, Burnett tried to decline, but received a good-natured cajoling from the students until she agreed. She ended the evening by accompanying a clip of a younger, Carol-Burnett-Show version of herself on her signature song “Carol’s Theme,” or as the rest of us call it, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.” Like every great performer, she had the audience in the palm of her hand and wanting more. Filing back out into the real world, the crowd was warm with nostalgia and happy that their friend who gave them so much in the past is still here bringing them happiness today. | Jim Ousley

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