Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Carol Burnett receives top US humour prize

21 October 2013, 12:30

Washington - When Carol Burnett launched her namesake variety show in the 1960s, one TV executive told her the genre was "a man's game". She proved him wrong with an 11-year run that averaged 30 million viewers each week.

On Sunday, the trailblazing comedienne received the nation's top humour prize at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. Top entertainers including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and others performed in Burnett's honour as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour.

The show will be taped and broadcast on 24 November on PBS stations.

"This is very encouraging," Burnett deadpanned in accepting the prize. "I mean it was a long time in coming, but I understand because there are so many people funnier than I am, especially here in Washington.

"With any luck, they'll soon get voted out, and I'll still have the Mark Twain prize."

'This feels good'

Fey opened the show with some jokes about the recent government shutdown and about fears over "Obamacare".

"Enough politics. We are here tonight to celebrate the first lady of American comedy, Ted Cruz," Fey said, referring to the Texas senator who took a prominent role during the shutdown.

Fey quickly turned to showering Burnett with accolades for opening doors for other women comedians.

"You mean so much to me," Fey said. "I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy."

In an interview, Burnett said she was drawn to comedy after realising how it felt to make people laugh. She went to UCLA with plans to become a journalist, but she took an acting course that put her on stage.

"I played a hillbilly woman, and coming from Texas ... it was real easy for me," she said. "I just made my entrance, and I said, 'I'm Baaack.' Then they exploded."

"I thought whoa! This feels good," Burnett said. "I wanted those laughs to keep on coming forever."

'I was more of a second banana'

Few women were doing comedy when Burnett set her sights on New York. She caught a break when she was spotted by talent bookers from TV's The Ed Sullivan Show and was invited to perform her rendition of I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles.

Almost immediately, Burnett transformed Dulles, the former secretary of state, "from a Presbyterian bureaucrat into a smoking hot sex symbol," said Cappy McGarr, the co-creator of the Mark Twain Prize. "She sang that she was 'simply on fire with desire' and that was really her big break."

Soon after, Burnett landed a role in Broadway's Once Upon a Mattress, and began appearing on morning TV's The Garry Moore Show. She never thought she could host her own show, though.

"I was more of a second banana," she said. But she loved playing a variety of characters.

CBS signed her to a 10-year contract doing guest shots on sitcoms and performing in one TV special a year, but the deal also allowed her the option of creating her own variety show and guaranteed her airtime. But five years in, CBS executives had forgotten about the idea.

She recalled one executive telling her: "You know, variety is a man's game."

"At that time, I understood what he was saying, and I was never one to get angry," Burnett said. "I said 'well this is what I know, and this is what I want to do.'"

The show ran from 1967 to 1978 and included guest stars such as Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan and Betty White.

Past honorees

Tim Conway, one of Burnett's co-stars on her show, joked that he now spends his time travelling around the country for Burnett to receive awards.

"Thank you for being such a friend," he said, "such a generous person, not with salary, but generous." Comedian Martin Short also joined the tribute to Burnett.

"What is it about redheads on television that make us laugh so much? Carol, Lucille Ball, Donald Trump," he said.

Burnett said it's a thrill to receive the award named for humorist and satirist Mark Twain and that she's in good company with past honorees, who include Fey, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and Ellen DeGeneres.

Coming on the heels of the government shutdown, McGarr said it's nice to bring an "intentionally funny moment" to Washington after weeks of political drama.

"You know, serious times call for seriously funny people," McGarr said.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
DP Ruto accuses Raila of selling ...

DP Wiliam Ruto has castigated Raila Odinga for seeking western support to fund his 2017 election bid. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Peter Kenneth announces Uhuru 201...

Peter Kenneth has announced that he will support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...