Transcript:

Harvey Korman I did not know about her from The Gary Moore Show. I just didn't. I. I don't know how did I know about Carol? Well, I remember she when The Danny Kaye Show was off. I was on that show for four years and they were looking for Harvey Korman type. And they had covered the zoos and they had covered all other freak houses and stuff and they couldn't find anybody. So. Carol, one day I said, why don't we get him? Everybody said there's an idea, and she ran into me in the parking lot at CBS and says, how would you like to be on my show? I said, I'd like to be on anybody's show. I don't have a job. And that's how it started. Ten years.

Interviewer: What did you think about the idea of Carol hosting a variety show?

Harvey Korman I didn't have any thoughts about that. The closest thing that I can remember is the first day of rehearsal. We were going into the rehearsal room, which we had also uses the Danny Kaye Show for years. And we were all kind of gathered to move into the room. And she said, look, they're just fulfilling a commitment that they have for me to do 12 weeks of a variety show. They don't have any thoughts about it's been successful. It's never happened before. But let me tell you something. Let's just have fun. Let's love each other. Let's love our guest stars. And let's just have a ball. And that really kind of set the tone. The note on which we began the show and it just got better and better and better was that have somebody. Well, you know, because I had worked with Danny Kaye, Red Skelton, Jack Benny that it had done and they were all magnificent and established, Carol, in that sense was not established yet. Carol was this wonderful knockabout from The Gary Moore Show and CBS or somebody. Well, we've got to do something with her. And they signed her to a contract television. I don't think they had a clue about how it would work. But whatever they thought, they were wrong.

Interviewer: Do you remember thinking at the time that it was unusual for a woman to be to.

Harvey Korman Yeah, I never really thought about things like that. In fact, I still don't think about things like that. As a matter of fact, I rarely think I've just never mind anyway. Yeah, I didn't really think so, because if you examine that period, I don't think there was anybody. But I think Dinah Shore, who had a show that she was hosting and I don't think anybody expected. A woman to front. And I'm so sorry. There's nobody is here and nobody asking me questions. And there's a person in front of me going. No, I don't think there was anybody. There was a couple of stand ups. There was Phyllis Diller. There was one or two here and there. But nobody of Carol's nature was around and I didn't think about it. But I realized later that it was kind of remarkable.

Interviewer: What were some of the stereotypes of women in comedy at that time?

Harvey Korman Stereotypes? Well, I don't know about stereotypes, but people you seem to think that in order for a woman to make it in comedy, she had to be, you know, pugnacious and angry and vocal and got in dark, which I never thought was a good idea for people doing comedy. I think it's a gentle art. Jack Benny. So I didn't have any notions. And what's even more remarkable, given that this show is about her, is that she just wanted to have fun. She was part of a stock company. She gathered about her with her husband's help, a remarkable company and players. Tim myself, Nikki Lyle. And she gave everybody free reign. I don't know anybody, a man or woman that would have allowed that to happen. Most of them that I knew that I had worked with were very insecure, hanging on to what it is that made them a star and would be very threatened by something like that. Not Carol.

Interviewer: What was the state of the variety show format at the time were there?

Harvey Korman There were jillions of them. As a matter of fact, I went through the TV guide once and because I thought that the variety show performers should have a category and there wasn't any. So I think the room somewhere between 15 and 20 variety shows. According to TV Guide, in the 60s and early 70s. So I started sort of a campaign which was very unlike me to get our category. And we've got our category. What they call it now, it's I guess it falls under the supporting or something in whatever category.

Interviewer: For which awards.

Harvey Korman The Emmy Awards. Yeah. And from that time on. I just one after another.

Interviewer: You did win.

Harvey Korman I did win. Yeah. The ones I didn't win Tim won and the ones that Tim didn't win and I didn't win. Even remember who they were.

Interviewer: Why? Why was it such a popular format?

Harvey Korman Well, I don't know. It started off, I guess, with Sid Caesar doing sketches and then Carol, who loved movies, loved television shows and is a madcap when it comes to doing characters. I thought, well, let's do that. Nobody's making fun of movies, of characters, of television shows. So let's do that. And I guess by the time the show ended, after 11 years, I was only there 10. We must have done every single movie, every single television show, every possible character. And I think that's one of the reasons I got tired. We had done everything.

Interviewer: I mean, again, this is a time, as you said, when it started, there were a lot of variety shows on. By the time it ended, there were virtually none. No, I'm just wondering why you think this one lasted. What was unique about this one?

Harvey Korman I think what was unique about this one, which is unique about any show that has if you notice, I'm not looking at you because if I look at you, I see this. So I'm not going to look at you with a look, okay? You can do whatever you want. What was unique is what is unique about any television show that works. There is a group of players that mesh. And it somehow worked out that way. I came from the theater and I had kind of a legitimate I mean, I had played Hamlet. I had played a lot of Shakespeare and Chekhov. I may have done all that stuff. Carol came from the theater, but she was more rust about Tim came from God knows where. I still don't understand where he came from. And Vicki was one of the dancers and singers on something from Orange County. And Lyle was Lyle. And he was gorgeous. And he put all these different kinds of people from different venues into one place. And suddenly there is. Magic. Suddenly there is self-respect. Suddenly there is respect for the others. Suddenly there is growing and growing together as a unit and. I think Carol is responsible for that. She wanted everybody to be good. She gave everybody. I don't know of any star that would give the latitude that she gave everybody, especially Tim. Tim thought he had his own show.

Interviewer: Do you remember the initial test that you all did for this series?

Harvey Korman No. Was there one?

Interviewer: I believe there was. And I just didn't know if you remembered what the network thought of it or what if people had too much confidence.

Harvey Korman No, I only remember that there were open auditions for people to work on the show. And I came into the rehearsal room and there was Bobby Chere, who was the director. And we we chatted a bit. And then I started to leave and he called me back and I said, What? He says, you know, we've seen so many people, you've got to do something or say something that's gonna make me remember you. So I left and I came back and I did some horrible thing. I don't remember what it was. And he laughed and I says, Okay. That's what it takes. That was kind of a remarkable time in that I got the opportunity to do it because they said, all right, I will try him out in one sketch. And it was a barber sketch. And I was the barber and Danny was taking a little boy and they had this is a Chess's shared and. After the first rehearsal, I remember Danny left the set, walked up to Bobby and said he's wonderful. So I kind of figured that I had a chance. And I did.

Interviewer: You mentioned before that Carol had been a player on Gary Moore Show, but she hadn't. She was coming into being a host. Did you notice in those early episodes any kind of learning curve for her in terms of being the whole story? You nervous about being there?

Harvey Korman Yeah, I'm sure she was nervous. She was always nervous. That's part of her. Her glorious presence in front of a camera or anywhere else. She is natural. She is open. She is vulnerable. She is saying, here I am. Take me for what it's worth. And she did not try to be somebody that she wasn't. I think that's why she loved to do characters. She could hide behind those characters. Carol is a very innocent, giving, generous person. Actually, I think about all the interviews I've done about Carol who could walk in and do two minutes. She's the most generous. The most talented. She's the most giving. She's the most comforting. She's the most this, that and the other thing. There are no minuses. I could come in here and do that in two minutes and leave, hopefully. OK.

Interviewer: One of the sketches in those early episodes was with you and playing married to Carol with Vicki Lawrence playing.

Harvey Korman What was that call? Roger and Carolyn. So Carol Ellen's this Carol. Yeah. Carolyn says. Right. And what were those sketches based on those sketches, I believe were based on things that had actually happened with Carol and her sister Kris when they were roommates. And I think a lot of that came from that experience. Carol was very much a part of what was done in terms of choice, where we were, who we were. She was very, very inventive about that. I never really cared for playing. Natural for being. Myself, I frankly don't know who myself is, and I don't think that many actors do, Garron. Who put my makeup on? It was glorious, said she thought. I said, do you think actors are neurologically impaired? And she said, no. Just the opposite. They're very special. And then we talked a little French is not only the great ones home, we the great ones. How many great ones do we have?

Interviewer: Not many, actually. I've heard Carol say a similar thing. I'm wondering if you sense that with her, too, that she was more comfortable playing other characters.

Harvey Korman Absolutely. And Carol was more comfortable playing a fan. She loved to do Joan Crawford. She loved to do. Betty Davis. She loved to do those characters. And when she met them or when they came on the show, she was. Oh. Joan Crawford is tough. She was still that open. And then next moment, she's doing them.

Interviewer: Do you think that was part of her appeal to that audiences could sort of somehow sense that or we felt like she was like us?

Harvey Korman Yes, absolutely. There's no way of being on television unless you make that connection with that little box and the people sitting around it and looking at you and you're looking at them and you connect, you connect or you don't connect. One of the things about our show is I think we connected.

Interviewer: Richard, you just spoke to us this morning, said an interesting thing that he said she was one of the rare people who could see connect through the lens and studio time somehow.

Harvey Korman Yes, absolutely. Richard was here. I remember she did another show, another variety show. I think it was a Disney after our show is off and somebody was giving him a direction or something. This says, I'm not Harvey Korman. I don't want to be Harvey Korman. And when I heard it, I said, well, who does? I mean, why would anybody. Harvey Korman. I mean, that poor schlep.

Interviewer: Well, I was going to say that the two of you, you and Carol together, seem to have. Just such amazing chemistry.

Harvey Korman Well, that's what I was talking about before the chemistry came out of our working together, out of the give and take of man and woman, two people talking, doing things, having something that they want to do and the other one preventing them. So we actually after a while, we don't even rehearse anymore. We learned the lines, got out on the stage and did it.

Interviewer: And did did you. Was there much improvisation or was it really did you stay there?

Harvey Korman No, we stuck to it pretty much. But there was some improvisation. Sure. And there were break ups. There were. God knows what. I mean, we were all pros and we all knew what the job was. And you never caught any of us looking at the cards? We learned it. We learned it every week. We've learned it like we were in a musical comedy. Every week, a different show. Pretty amazing.

Interviewer: How did you and Carol work with the writers? Did you suggest things or was it just.

Harvey Korman Me and I and Carol? Tim was one of the writers, so he had more of a connection with them. But Carol very definitely had the ear of the writers through her relationship with Joe, who was the producer and. That's that secret that you never find out. What is Carol Burnett really like? I don't know.

Interviewer: Actually, a lot of people have said that.

Harvey Korman I have no idea. She there is and I've worked with nearly everybody still living. And they all have a story. They all have a tragedy. They all had the same violence, but there was abuse. There was a breakdown in the family structure and they were angry. And they are bright. They're very bright. They're very angry. They're very hostile. And I never was able to figure out what it was in there. Carol has all of the the problems that I mean I mean, she had what, an alcoholic father, an alcoholic mother, an alcoholic, made an alcoholic milk man. I mean, everybody was an alcoholic in her life. And yet she was able somehow to rise above it. Or did she? I don't know. People who become comedians seems to me come from pain, come from conflict.

Interviewer: It's interesting, too, because I think everyone seems to have agreed with that. And at the same time, I'm one of the things audiences felt about her was that they didn't know her. So it's kind of interesting that she was very private and yet she put herself out there.

Harvey Korman Yes, very well put. She did. She put herself out there. And I mean, when I stopped to think about her, when she came out for questions and answers or when she said good night or anything, she was out there. She was there. Here I am. Take me. And people did take her.

Interviewer: How did the question and answer come about?

Harvey Korman Usually, no, it wasn't. There was I think Bob Banner, who would give one of the producers I think of of The Garry Moore Show. Thought, well, wouldn't it be fun if you did that, soften up the audience that way? Do your own. What do they call that warm up? Wouldn't that be fun? I don't know. Let's try it. And of course, it was. I mean, you come out and you talk to the audience for ten minutes, even though they might have only used to three minutes and the show kicks off differently.

Interviewer: It also seemed like it became such a thing that audiences came wanting to have the craziest question, right?

Harvey Korman Absolutely. Don't go away. Stay tuned. We'll be right back. OK.

Interviewer: Do you remember any of the funniest questions?

Harvey Korman I don't remember anything. I don't remember what I had for breakfast. I remember what I had for dinner. I don't remember getting here. I think my wife, Tiffany. I don't remember her.

Interviewer: I wanted to ask you about some of the movie spoofs in particular. If you could just talk about a few of them in particular, lovely story.

Harvey Korman Lovely story was what was a love story? Oh, love story. Yes. Oh, I wish I was. Ryan O'Neal in a bad wig. Yeah, that was brilliantly written. You know, people forget about how well that shows. And we had gone through, I think in the 10 years, more than 50 writers. They got tired. You know, they they were spent. So a new group was brought in. We had brilliant writing. And you can't do it without that. You cannot do without the writing. And your question was, oh, I just was wondering what you remembered about that sketch in particular. Oh, well, my favorite sketch was when I ever I had a chance to do Clark Gable or Ronald Coleman or whoever it is I did. I loved that because I could hide behind that, because I could do impressions when I had to be myself. Like Roger and Carol and Sue and the other one horror. When what were some of the others I had to do was myself. I felt uncomfortable. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what. What did was uncomfortable. Much rather do big outsized sized crazy things. And I could hide.

Interviewer: Where did the idea for doing this come from?

Harvey Korman I guess my guess is from Carol. I think Carol says, OK, we're going to. They want us to do 12 shows. We're going to do 12 shows the way high. Like I'm going to do these twelve shows. This is what we're going to do. That's my guess. As I said, I don't know, Carol. And don't forget, she slept with the producer. And who knows what went on?

Interviewer: That's true. You mentioned the Gone with the Wind. Much of that character that had to be one of the biggest laughs.

Harvey Korman Yeah. It was also amazing in that I'm going to forget their names. Lord, help me. A man and a woman who were hired on. And I think that's the first thing they wrote. You know their names, wasn't it? It was Rick Hawkins and lose somebody like that. They wrote that. And if they did nothing else but say I saw it in the window and I couldn't resist it. I mean, that's brilliant.

Interviewer: Did you know that had you seen the costume when she walked out? Were you prepared?

Harvey Korman Oh, yeah, I was prepared. But what I wasn't prepared for was doing Clark Gable. I mean, I had seen a number of people doing Gable, you know, with a face. And I went, I. I don't get it. But then they gave me the hat and they gave me the mustache and they gave me the costume and I walked out onstage, I swear to you. I suddenly felt like Clark Gable was one of those magic moments when I didn't know what I was going to do because I love control. I know what I want to do. I prepare when I want to do. We were all very prepared.

Interviewer: You were completely channeling Clark Gable. Very strange. I'm wondering, how did the show sort of evolve over the years? How did you see it change? I mean, it seems like some of these types of sketches you did early on. We're more sort of broad.

Harvey Korman Yeah. Well, if you call them broad, are they really evolving? I mean, I when I use the word evolve, I think of it's getting better, not just different, but better. I think we evolved. Not good. I think we started getting too broad. I think we started doing things that were off the chart. We've got to real. I mean, save a couple of people sitting in a bar or a couple of people sitting in a coffee shop. The relationships that. That, to me, wasn't. Good.

Interviewer: I mean, do you think it was? Was it mirroring something that was changing in comedy?

Harvey Korman You know, I don't really know what was happening in comedy in general. I remember, as I said before, there were about 16 shows. I mean, there was. Oh, well, then if you can't remember it. You know, I'm quite old. You know how old I am. You told me you were 80. I'm 80. Takes my breath away. Yeah. Oh, the tall girl and the little guy. Anyway, there was a bunch of variety shows and they were all doing different things. And I think a lot of them stole from us. I mean, we were doing sketches. We were doing takeoff's we were doing parodies, and that's what they were doing. So I just assumed everybody was doing that and. But not as good as us.

Interviewer: Did you consciously stay away from political humor?

Harvey Korman Yes, I think consciously it was. Carol, I don't think you're wanted to get involved in statements at that time. The Smothers Brothers were also on and they were heavily mired in doing that kind of humor. Carol didn't want any part of it. She didn't think that had anything to do with what we were doing, what we did best. And I think that had a lot to do with the fact that we had such staying power that 15, 20, 30 years later, it's still running.

Interviewer: That's true. You can watch those in there.

Harvey Korman Yeah. I don't know if the word were generic. Oh, well, they're timeless. What I'm pointing towards somebody.

Interviewer: What do you think? In any way reflected the time period? Or was it really just of its own? I mean, I'm thinking of. The women's movement was kind of going on, and I don't feel like I saw a little bit of that.

Harvey Korman Maybe some of the sketches, maybe, you know, I was not very conscious about what was going on in the world. People said, where were you during the 70s? Were you during the 60s? How did you dress in the 80s? I said, I don't know. I don't remember. I didn't connect with with me a unit or a thing that was larger than me. I use the word narcissist before I was a narcissist. I am a narcissist. I don't know any actor who is worth his weight, who is not a narcissist. He's trying to help himself. He's trying to put himself together. He's trying to be a human being because if he started off that way, I don't think he'd be an actor.

Interviewer: One of the sketches I went to, the recurring sketches was the family, yeah. And I just wanted to ask you, I mean, first of all, how that came about, how it originated.

Harvey Korman I think that originated with another comedy team. Liz and Dick got their names. They were wonderful. And Carol Daubert Carol adored playing that woman whose name was. Mm hmm. And Vicky adored playing Mama, and I didn't like what I had to play because, again, I felt it was pretty much myself. You stick a phony accent onto it and you're somebody else. But I was always very uncomfortable with that.

Interviewer: Did you feel like this was a different kind of sketch to be doing on the show? Because you were funny, but they were also kind of hard?

Harvey Korman Yes, they were funny and they were heartbreaking. And we got a lot of mail all over the country about how people identified with it. I mean, people with cry. I mean, there were moments where you were moved and who doesn't have a relationship with their mother that. Hello? Who's your mother? Where how did you think you've got some neurotic. Yeah, you know, when I would see the script every week I go to chief. We're doing the family. And I've got to do that guy. And people say, oh, you're wonderful, but you're so. And I said, I'm not comfortable.

Interviewer: Did Carol ever talk about where where she drew inspiration for the Eunice character?

Harvey Korman No. Not that I recall. I think. It is a good part of Carol that's not expressed, certainly not in life. You're tired. You're just breathing. It's hard, isn't it? It's hard. She got a chance to really be shrill and out there and angry. And I think she appreciated the fact that she was just getting an opportunity to do that. That's not who she is. That's not how she was. And that so that's not how she expressed herself.

Interviewer: Just let it out or something. Yeah.

Harvey Korman I think this was a place for her to let her anger out in all of the years that I've known, Carol. And it's fortyish now. I've never, ever seen her hangry. So weird, isn't it? There was one time when she was going to fire me. I was rude as I was often rude to one of our guest stars and she called me into the dressing room after the show and said. I hear you're not happy on this show. I suppose sometimes I'm not. She says, well, then why don't you just get off it? And I said, well, I don't know. She said, tell you what. This is Friday. You come in on Monday for the reading. I want to see a smile on your face. And she's scared the crap out of me. And I went, wait a minute, what am I doing here? So I came in on that Monday and I was like, boy, am I happy. What a great place to be. And I went down to the dressing room, my dressing room, and there was a plaque. My dressing room door said, Mr. Happy go lucky in case I forgot what I was supposed to be. They said, All right, we'll give you a damn if you take out the two. So they would bargain. Yeah, but it reminds me that. I was so uncomfortable doing the show, that character, that I was never myself, I was always thinking ahead. I was always doing things so that I could get through it rather than just being. And as I said before, I am much I was much more comfortable being somebody else.

Interviewer: What were some of your favorite characters to do?

Harvey Korman Well, I loved doing Max with the von Stroheim character. I love doing Cary Grant or Ronald Coleman or Bill Holden. I mean, all of these guys were my heroes. And one of the remarkable things, one of the most remarkable things was that these guys. We're fans of mine, and I would run into Fred Astaire, for instance, at a party. Oh. Oh. And he would actually I mean, I get chills when I think about your car. And Dean Martin and Henry Fonda and Gene Kelly. These people watch our show. They know why am. I mean, I couldn't believe it. I still don't.

Interviewer: What about Carol's recurring characters? Do you have any that you just thought? She's really not.

Harvey Korman I think, Carol, to love to hide. I think she. I think that's why should I play Eunice? Sometimes he would do a family sketch for half the show, which I thought was really overdoing it. But nevertheless, when she got played the Gloria Swanson character and the Betty Davis character and the Joan Crawford and I say that already. She loved it being herself. I don't think she was crazy about that either, because, as I said, we don't know who we are.

Interviewer: Was that part of the reason that she was sometimes less comfortable singing?

Harvey Korman Hated singing? She hated singing. And she particularly hated singing by herself. If you will see the shows in which she had long, long duets with Sammy Davis or Steve Lawrence or me Law or Eydie Gorme. She was magnificent because she had somebody else.

Interviewer: She had someone or a character out there by herself.

Harvey Korman Wasn't crazy about that.

Interviewer: I'm just talking about the family sketches. Still, there was a special after The Carol Burnett Show ended that you also directed.

Harvey Korman Yes. Can you talk about I can talk about it in terms of how terrified I was. I mean, the directing part was fine. Roger Beatty and I had done several mamma shows together. So that was comfortable. I remember having to come out onstage for my first entrance. And I was terrified and I don't know why. I mean, I fought for my life. I fought every inch of the way to remember the next line. That's all I remember about that.

Interviewer: Just not in the moment, really.

Harvey Korman Not in the moment. I wasn't in this world. I was just terrified.

Interviewer: Do you remember having a different perspective on Carol working as her director?

Harvey Korman Not really, because I knew Carol when I knew what she liked and what she didn't like. And I tried to, you know, just help. And I think I did that with Vicki Lawrence, too, in the morning show. Vicki was hard and hard and mean and mean and vocal and vocal. And I got the writers to soften that up so that she was sometimes that, but sometimes something else.

Interviewer: Well, just as an aside, you should when Vicki Lawrence was here, she was just going on about how everything she learned about acting was from you.

Harvey Korman I think she overdoes that, but bless her heart.

Interviewer: Does that plus her had one of the things that was also an audience favorite about The Carol Burnett Show was when you all would go up or crack up. And I'm just wondering how how did you ever do things sort of intentionally? Did you prepare things?

Harvey Korman No. Whenever I did try to defend myself against Tim, I would go through this. Elaborate. I would change the lines and he would just stare at me and say something like, well, I hope you have insurance for that joke or whatever it was. And I would go anyway. I mean, I couldn't fight him. He had that. We did a sketch. Well, we were a flyers commandos and we were flying over enemy territory. And we were gonna jump from the plane. And I said, well, son, where are you? Come on. We got right there and. I opened the door and there he was sitting on the toilet. Please tell me, is that funny? That's funny. I often think I lie awake thinking of all the good times I had on that show. All the laughs. And we did have laughs. We did have one. We did get drunk. We were wonderful together.

Interviewer: Why do you think that was such an audience favorite thing to see?

Harvey Korman They love to see me, particularly because I was so proper and legitimately trained and I was on the theater and I was prepared and I went to see me go to pieces. And that's what Tim loved. He would not rehearse. He would say, OK, now we'll do a little bit here and I'll do some here. We never rehearsed. So when we did it in front of the audience, I was the first one to say it with the audience. So I enjoyed it as the audience.

Interviewer: And what about Carol?

Harvey Korman Carol was very proper. Carol was very much know, breaking up. So when you see Carol breaking up, you know, she. I remember we did a family thing. Most of the family, hey, mama. Yeah. It was a family thing. And we were playing this board game. Sorry. And Vicki and I kind of got into it. We started improvising and Carol just couldn't go with it. I mean, she just had to stop. And she's as I recall, she said, we start this all over again.

Interviewer: Because he was laughing so hard. There was another one I saw where you were. You were dressed in the when you were dressed as a woman.

Harvey Korman Oh, they kept making me get into women's costumes. I loved it.

Interviewer: There was one where, um. Oh, I thought you were you were you were being like a psychic. And I think you made a reference to a wild wag.

Harvey Korman Oh, yes. You remember that one? Yes, I was Mother Marcus.

Interviewer: Right. Yes. And I think that was one word. Remember what, Carol? Her reaction?

Harvey Korman No. What wasn't she?

Interviewer: She was laughing and then she just reached over.

Harvey Korman And then I tried to get hers. Turnabout is fair play. Yeah. I don't know. Was that an out taker? Was it on the air? I remember we had at the end of the season about two hours or longer of outtakes, things that were never on the air. And which that's very smart guys in the booth. When how take how to show that there was a whole series of these things.

Interviewer: So it was kind of, you know, it wasn't like a game to see who could you get there?

Harvey Korman No, I would never do that. But I did try to get him and never did. All these backfired. Hi.

Interviewer: Can you just talk about how the show was taped? I mean, it was done basically like a live show.

Harvey Korman It was done like a live show. And we started out we would rehearse four or five hours on Monday for five hours on Tuesday. Wednesday was a run through already for the staff, for the network. And then Thursday was camera day. Or was Friday a. And then we got so used to each other. We anticipated each other so much. We rehearsed an hour on Monday. Two hours until one hour on Wednesday, so that we all were prepared. We all knew what we weren't doing. And then they threw us into the into into this thing in front of an audience. It's very exciting.

Interviewer: It's actually amazing when you think about it. It was brand new each week and you had it down to that much.. Really is. What were Carol and Joe's various rules?

Harvey Korman See, that's part of the secret. There's a secret. Everybody has at least people that are actors or especially those who do comedy. They have a secret. They have a thing from where they came. And they'll never share that with you. You just gotta know that they're broken in some way. I don't know anybody that does comedy. It's not broken in some way. I won't mention any names, but I have a good friend that's on a big hit. And I said to him about the star. What about him? Broken. All they had to say was broken. At the whole picture.

Interviewer: Comedies. Tragedy.

Harvey Korman I think I first learned that line from Carol. What is a comedy? Comedy is tragedy plus time. Pretty smart.

Interviewer: Went, went. Why did you leave the show? You were what season was it?

Harvey Korman It was the end of the 10th season and one of the network guys from CBS went over to another network and said, you should be doing your own show. And I said, well, of course. And so I went there and I did this pilot. I did that part of it. Nothing worked. Nothing worked. There was one pilot I did there was canceled on the night, but. I said, we can't do that. John Cleese does that. I couldn't do it on my own. You have to have a certain whatever that is. Maybe we're talking about it with Carol, that connected ness that you're. I am, folks. I didn't know how to do that. Tim doesn't know how to do that. McLain never learned how to do that. Marvelous actors didn't have that. Whatever that X quality was connected with an audience and said, here's a television star. Didn't have it.

Interviewer: I mean, there's also something about, again, you two together, because obviously, I mean, the show didn't last much longer after you left.

Harvey Korman I know. But I think that the show was going to probably end anyway. The ratings were not nearly what they were when we started. But Carol, as I recall, was a big favorite of Mr. Paley who were who owned the network and he adored her. And how much longer he would have gone on with her? I don't know. But I think the show is tired. Shows get tired. Yes. Does anybody get tired of American Masters?

Interviewer: Not so far, but it's not on every week.

Harvey Korman It's on every...

Interviewer: We just do a certain number of specials a year.

Harvey Korman You know, it's very good, by the way.

Interviewer: Well, I've only ever done one other, so I can't take any credit for the series. Can you talk at all about the last episode and you made a appearance on the final episode, is that right?

Harvey Korman Yes, I was very emotional when Carol started to sing. I'm so glad we had this time together. And did the entire lyric, which Joe had written, I believe. I was. Moved. And she was too if you recall. She started to cry. And it was the culmination of all those years, all those sketches, all those weeks. And we're finally saying it's over very hard. And when you work that close with people, you get to know them. It becomes a family, becomes mother and father and brother and sister. And that's very hard sometimes to explain to your mate, what are you doing? Why are you home at 2:00? What do you think? I'm out fooling around. No, we were very close.

Interviewer: Had Carol called you to say, would you please come on for the last?

Harvey Korman Oh, I don't remember how it happened, but I wouldn't have missed it. I would have called them beg to be on it. Emotional. I don't think people realize when you're on the air for that long and do that many shows how emotional it gets house, how strong the bond the bond is. And. Very hard. Sometimes it's stronger in a sense than your real bonds. If that makes any sense, more intense, yes, definitely more intense. I mean, we would go through divorces and deaths and you name it. Terrible life problems and decisions and. I remember Charlene, who was Joe secretary and girls, we were all in Hawaii together. There must've been. Well, I'll say 10 characters, 10 couples, and we were all in this picture and each year a couple was eliminated. So at the end of it, two or four people left. The rest had broken up.

Interviewer: And you went through all that together together. Can you just describe what you did on that last episode?

Harvey Korman I don't remember anything, do you?

Interviewer: Well, just you you you came and walked through and gave her a kiss. It was very it was actually very, very moving.

Harvey Korman Yeah. I guess, you know, I have a tendency to want to block out those things that are too emotional. I guess I'm like most people that do comedy. I'm guarded. I'm. I don't. I'm not. I'm off. I'm only on when the red light goes on. Then I'm on.

Interviewer: If that is true for a lot of people, when when you think of that last episode with her thinking back to the first episode when she first walked out and she did seem kind of.

Harvey Korman Nervous, so jittery.

Interviewer: You know what I mean? I guess how would you describe her growth as a performer?

Harvey Korman Well, talk about evolve. I mean, each week and each year that we were renewed, she got stronger and stronger and more confident, but never changed her character. She can come on and do questions and answers in the eighth, ninth, tenth year. The way she did it in the first year, she was so high. Why are you doing? Good to see you. Always connecting. Always connecting. Because that was the whole purpose of that phase. Connect with that audience in the studio and your bottom.

Interviewer: Do you remember? Did I ask you this, but in that first episode, do you remember seeing her come out in that first very first question and answer what she what she was like, let her energy was.

Harvey Korman I know. Do you?

Interviewer: Yeah, well, I just watched it recently.

Harvey Korman Sometimes I watch the old shows like, oh, my God, did we do that? Well, I don't want to see that. And especially with the family characters, I would know that I was about to make a flub. I knew it. And Joe and Carol did not believe in reshooting.

Interviewer: So what happened, if there were, there was.

Harvey Korman Hated it.

Interviewer: You also co-director another special with Carol later on with. Carl Reiner. And we'll be going for that, right?

Harvey Korman And Robin. The thing that I remember about that, and this was another one that Roger Beatty did the camera. We had a wonderful sketch that the guy is a New York writer who does a lot of off Broadway stuff, forgetting his name wrote about. A woman who has just recently widowed and it takes place in. The memorial place, wherever it is they do before they do these services, and she starts talking with Robin. It worked OK. Then he said, can I just do it my way? And we did it again, just like night and day. And we went with that one. We went with his version. Robin is extraordinary.

Interviewer: I actually just watched that last night. And it is amazing to do a sketch a second time and have it be funny the second time.

Harvey Korman Wow. That's very brave. Yes.

Interviewer: What do you remember how the idea came to put the four of them together?

Harvey Korman No, I have no idea. You talked about Carl and Ann Robin. No idea.

Interviewer: So what is. I mean, just in looking at her overall career. I mean, what what would you say is the most unique thing about her as a performer? What is it that. What is her impact really on?

Harvey Korman Yeah, I think her impact would have been anywhere with anything. I think Carol is a marvelous actress. I think that people that really do comedy will. Do tragedy well, people who do tragedy well don't necessarily do comedy well, if at all, Carol, could have had an impact doing anything from Roustabout on the variety stage. I always thought, oh, I would love to direct you as Madea or Lady Macbeth. She has those kind of muscles and talent. I don't think you can limit certain kinds of talent and you can't limit Carol in any way. Unfortunately, we've all become slaves to this business. Most of us don't get any work. Most of us have to scratch so that when we do get a job, we're so thankful that we'll just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Oh, well, let's get that guy because he does that. Oh, let's get that guy because he does that. And then pretty soon you're on the hamster wheel. Carol didn't have to do that. Carol just did it the way she wanted to do it. And the world came to her.

Interviewer: What about her dramatic work? I mean, were you so you were not surprised. Make that transition.

Harvey Korman No, not surprised at all.

Interviewer: What did you think in particular? Friendly fire, for example?

Harvey Korman Yes. Yes. I couldn't watch that. As I recall, it was too, too painful. I mean, the loss of a child. Not for me.

Interviewer: What about any other film work? Are there any that were particularly.

Harvey Korman I thought she was wonderful in noises off and I thought she was wonderful. And the picture she did with Martha. But I think that the mark that she made as the mistress of her own television show. I think when she wins these awards, when she's voted into this, that and the other thing is, is the woman that was behind The Carol Burnett Show.

Harvey Korman
Interview Date:
2007-06-05
Runtime:
0:56:01
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-3j3901zz4p, cpb-aacip-504-r785h7cm96
MLA CITATIONS:
"Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 Jun. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/556
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, June 05). Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/556
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). June 05, 2007. Accessed January 18, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/556

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