BWW Review: Carol Burnett at the Tilles Center
Carol Burnett is one of the last living legends of Hollywood; she is the epitome of comedy. As a critic, this was a career highlight for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be in the same room with one of my heroes. On October 23, Ms. Burnett honored Long Island by appearing at the Tilles Center for 2 sold-out performances of her one-woman show: Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection.
For the record, this is not a stand-up show. This show is an ode to her ground-breaking eponymous variety show that aired for 11 seasons. As you might recall, at the beginning of each episode, Ms. Burnett would come out and engage the audience in a Q & A session. Ms. Burnett carries on that tradition with her new immersive show that heavily relies on audience participation. Unlike a high school teacher, Ms. Burnett does not have to worry about a lack of participation. Throughout the show, the Q & A is interspersed with classic clip montages of her variety show. Many of the audience questions pertained to The Carol Burnett Show. Being an avid fan of Ms. Burnett, I actually knew the answers to most of the questions. Especially, after I read her latest memoir In Such Good Company: 11 Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox, which I highly recommend reading if you are a fan of her variety show. While I loved hearing Ms. Burnett reminisce about the show, I was especially excited to hear questions pertaining to her entire career.
Some Q & A highlights included:
Q: Do you still have the autograph books?
A: Yes I do. That tradition began when I was little girl. I collected autographs with my grandmother. [At the end of every episode, Ms. Burnett would have her special guests sign a red autograph book]Q: Why didn't you bring Same Time, Next Year to Broadway from Jupiter, FL?
A: Nobody asked us. [Ms. Burnett appeared in a production of the Bernard Slade play alongside the late Burt Reynolds at his infamous dinner theater in Jupiter, FL]Q: Who makes you laugh today?
A: A lot of people especially the women like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Jane Lynch. Of course, men really make me laugh too like Steve Martin and Martin Short. I also am a big fan of the show Schitt's Creek.Q: What was it like working with Rod Serling?
A: Delightful. That show originally began as a pilot for a new series. It didn't work out, but Serling made it work for The Twilight Zone. [Fresh off The Garry Moore Show, Ms. Burnett landed a guest spot on the third season of The Twilight Zone. In the episode "Cavender is Coming", Ms. Burnett plays Agnes Grep, a young uncoordinated woman who is constantly fired due to her clumsiness. Enter her guardian angel Harmon Cavender (Jessie Price), who is equally clumsy, but will do whatever he can to help her improve her life and earn his wings.]
Q: When did you know you wanted to entertain?
A: I was going to start out as a journalist. Thank God that didn't work out. [Ms. Burnett pointed out she didn't think she would be able to handle the job of journalist today and gave them a lot of credit] When I went to college it wasn't offered as a major, so I majored in theater and English. I was required to take an acting class. While all of my classmates performed dramatic, depressing monologues and Shakespearean soliloquies, I performed a comedic piece. That's when I heard my first laugh and the rest was history.Q: I was honored to see you and Brian Dennehy in a production of Love Letters on Broadway a few years ago. Do you have any aspirations to return to Broadway?
A: No. It's hard doing eight shows a week. Although, I'd return to do Love Letters with Brian Dennehy in a second. [Ms. Burnett appeared in the 2014 revival of the A.R. Gurney play, which featured a rotating cast in the central roles] Q: What was your favorite character to play on your variety show?
A: It's a three-way tie between the movie-takeoffs, Eunice, and Mrs. Wiggins.Q: How did you get on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?
A: I love playing villains. They sent me the script and I immediately said yes. Plus, I wanted to work with Mariska Hargitay. [Ms. Burnett appeared in Season 10 of Law and Order: SVU and earned her 23rd Emmy nomination. She was bone-chillingly brilliant in this performance.]
What truly was refreshing to see was a sold-out crowd filled with fans of all ages, all eagerly with their hands in the air, to ask Ms. Burnett a question. It just proves how truly timeless Carol Burnett is.
Ms. Burnett began touring her one-woman show back in 2018. The tour will continue in March 2020; you can purchase tickets on Ticketmaster. If you can't make one of Ms. Burnett's performances, you can stream her Netflix show A Little Help with Carol Burnett now. She also can be heard in Toy Story 4 as Chairol Burnett. She also will be teaming up with Tina Fey and Focus Features to bring her memoir, Carrie & Me: A Mother Daughter Love Story, to the big screen.
Readers, if you have the opportunity, I implore that you go and see this show. We currently are living in severely dour times that might leave you every day frowning in disbelief or discouragement. For the first time, in a long time, my frown was turned upside down after seeing this show. I assure you, like myself, you will be so glad you had this time together with the one and only Carol Burnett. Ear tug, ear tug.