Carol Burnett recalls fighting for her comedy variety show to be aired
Imagine a world where The Carol Burnett Show didn't exist. Thankfully it'll never be a reality, but there was a brief moment when Carol Burnett had to fight to get the show approved.
The story has been heard numerous times; however, the legendary actress recently went a little more into detail on the encounter.
During an interview with the Dear Multi-Hyphenate Podcast, the 89-year-old recalled the moment she signed a decade-long contract with CBS after her departure from The Garry Moore Show. "CBS offered me a contract to stay with them for ten years where I would be obligated to do one special a year -- an hour-long special a year and two guest appearances on some of their sitcoms."
Her agent was also able to secure a stipulation in the contract, which promised that whenever Burnett was ready to 'push the button' on her own show, CBS would have to air 30 episodes no matter how they felt. Yet, the decision had to be made within the first five years.
"Within the first five years, if I, Carol, wanted to do a comedy variety show, CBS would have to put it on the air for 30 shows," she said. "Fair play, that if I 'push that button,' they would have to put it on air whether they wanted to or not."
It wasn't until the last week in the fifth year of the contract that Burnett felt that it was time. She called the CBS Vice President, who was in New York then, to pitch her idea and ultimately 'push the button.' He did not remember the agreement, though.
"And he said, 'what button?' and I said, 'You know, where I get to do 30 comedy variety shows.' He said, 'Well, let me get back to you," Burnett said, revisiting the conversation. The vice president called her back the next day and told her that 'comedy variety is a man's game... it's not for you, girl."
He even named a list of men who excelled in those varieties and gave her another idea instead to join a sitcom called Here's Agnes. Yet, Burnett didn't back down, revealing to the executive that she wanted her show and nothing else. "I don't want to be on Anges every week. I want to have an hour-long show... I want guest stars; I want music; I want dancers; I want singers; I want sketch comedy..."
Although they did not have faith in the show, Burnett was able to get started, making fun a priority on set regardless of what would happen after the 30 episodes.
The Carol Burnett Show went on to produce 276 shows through 11 seasons. According to TV Guide and Time Magazine, it's one of the greatest shows of all time.
She showed how imperative it is for women in television or film to stand up for themselves. Her dedication to being a leader, talent and popularity proved Burnett was destined to have her show.