Carol Burnett Honored With Country's Top Comedy Award

Oct 21, 2013
Originally published on October 21, 2013 4:36 pm

Carol Burnett

We tip our hat to legendary comedienne Carol Burnett, 80, who was awarded the Mark Twain Award for Comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. last night.

Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett and Tina Fey were among those who honored Burnett in the tribute.

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And we just want to give a tip of the hat or a tug of the earlobe to comedian Carol Burnett, who was honored at the Kennedy Center last night with the country's highest award for comedy, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She's also won a Peabody Award, Golden Globes from the Foreign Press, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from, well, the president, and 25 Emmys for "The Carol Burnett Show" in the 1970s.

Who can forget when her comrade Tim Conway played the dentist who kept sticking himself with the Novocain, or her take off on soap operas called "As The Stomach Turns"? And, of course - we have to play it - her Scarlett, descending the staircase to meet Rhett in a parody of "Gone with the Wind." Her dress, made out of curtains, the curtain rod still between her shoulders.


CAROL BURNETT: (as Starlett O'Hara) What brings you to Terra?

HARVEY KORMAN: (as Rhett Butler) You, you vixen, you. Scarlett, I love you. That gown is gorgeous.

BURNETT: (as Starlett O'Hara) Thank you. I saw it in the window, and I just couldn't resist it.


YOUNG: Possibly one of the funniest TV lines of all time. At the Kennedy Center, friends - including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett and Tim Conway - paid tribute to Carol Burnett. Younger comedians she'd inspired were there as well: Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and a star-struck Tina Fey.


TINA FEY: Carol, if I may. I still can't. Ms. Burnett, I am so honored and thrilled to be here to help present this award to you. You mean so much to me, that I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy.

YOUNG: Well, we spoke to Carol Burnett in 2010. We talked about her influence on younger female comedians. She said there's a more cynical style now, and told us where she thought her open, innocent style of comedy came from.


BURNETT: I think my attitude was nurtured by seeing so many movies in the 1940s, you know, where there was nothing cynical about anything. The bad guys got it. The good guys won. Everything was hopeful. So when I came to New York on my own, I never thought that good things wouldn't happen.

Now, maybe today, if that situation were the same, I might not have been that confident. But in those days, it was like, yeah, let's go try. Let's do it. And I never took anything personally when I didn't get the job. What I always thought was, well, it's not my turn. That's her turn. My turn will come.

YOUNG: And it did. Carol Burnett, speaking to us in 2010. Last night, she was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.