Carol Burnett sometimes daydreams of being young again and reliving her unparalleled career, she said at Sunday night’s Golden Globes, but then she stops short. “I realize how incredibly fortunate I was to be there at the right time, because what we did then couldn’t be done today,” she said.
Burnett, 85, considered the “queen of comedy,” was accepting the inaugural Carol Burnett Award, an accolade that focuses on life achievement in television. And she took the moment to reflect on the opportunities that were available to her when she began a variety show called “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1967, which ran for “11 joy-filled years,” as she put it, and earned 25 Emmys.
Burnett won five Golden Globes for the program, which drew about 30 million viewers a week.
In her acceptance speech on Sunday, Burnett, who has been in the industry for seven decades, said she fell in love with movies as a young girl and then with television as a teenager.
“What fascinated me was the way the stars on the screen could make people laugh or cry or sometimes both,” she said. “And I wished and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, some day, I could have the chance to do the same thing. Well, those childhood dreams came true.”
But it was the message that those dreams may not pan out for someone today that was her focus.
“The cost alone would be prohibitive,” she said, adding that other variety shows of the era, which ruled in the small screen, “could never see the light of day today because the networks just wouldn’t spend the money.”
“They are not going to take a chance,” she went on. “It’s sad to say today’s audiences might never know what they are missing.”
Even while making this more sobering point, though, Burnett did not pass on a punch line: “So here’s to reruns and YouTube!”
Burnett said she was “gobsmacked” to not only be accepting the award but also to have it named after it her — “does this mean I get to accept it every year?” she joked. Burnett has collected numerous awards throughout her career including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Kennedy Center Honor, the Mark Twain Prize for Humor and two Peabody Awards, one of which she accepted last year.
“I’m just happy that our show happened when it did, and that I can look back and say once more I am so glad we had this time together,” she said in closing, using the same words — and signature gesture, an ear tug — that she closed her show with for all those years. The ear tug, which began as a secret greeting for her grandmother, has since become an iconic symbol, likely to forever represent the comedian.