Transcript:

Betty White: Oh, Carol Burnett was sort of a Saturday night, must you couldn't you couldn't not watch The Carol Burnett Show was that wonderful line up of Mary Tyler Moore. And the whole group, Bob Newhart. But then when I got to meet her, it was such fun and we became real good friends. But I was so thrilled the first time she invited me to be on her show. That was really fun.

Interviewer: Can you tell me what your impressions were when you first saw her performing? I mean, what what can you describe her purse, comedic style?

Betty White: Well, Carol's comedic style is is there's such a sense of fun in there. You get the feeling that she's enjoying it maybe just as much, if not more than you are. And that's saying something. But. And, of course, doing her show with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway. That was a piece of work. After doing her show, I really was amazed at her control because they had none. If they would rehearse a thing and then Tim would come out different from rehearsal in some little way, maybe a little piece of wardrobe, maybe a little different reading of a line. And Harvey was gone. He was absolutely on the floor. And how Carol held it together. I don't know, because I'm not very good at holding it together when that goes either.

Interviewer: Do you think this. So you were saying that Carol had such control. Do you think she took pride in that? Was it a matter that she was professional? You could keep it together?

Betty White: I think Carol is such a professional that she probably thought somebody had to keep it together and. But I also think she had a lot of other responsibilities. That was a heavy show and all that. And she couldn't lose it too much and still have to get through the end of the hour and keep everybody together.

Interviewer: But wasn't it also that was one of the things that audiences loved. I know I loved the most when I saw them breaking up.

Betty White: Well, I think everybody thought they were rigged break ups between Tim and Harvey. I've had so many people ask me over the years. Well, of course, that was a setup. It was not a setup at all. They were pigeons for each other. And they as I say, the team was so evil. He would have some little quirk. Then all of a sudden would it would occur to him. Well, do you remember that the dentist sketch when he shot himself in the hand accidentally with novacaine and the hand does wouldn't do anything. It just. Well, I can just think of that at four o'clock in the morning and laugh out loud.

Interviewer: Can you remember any times with Carol in a sketch when everyone was trying to these very specific sketches?

Betty White: Not any specific ones that involve Carol's wonderful things were getting into a character and am really well liked. You will. Curtain line. I saw it in the window. I couldn't resist it. You know, the Scarlett O'Hara thing. But hers was more the character humor. And again, doing that, you have to keep it together a little bit because if you just get the giggles, you lose all that good writing or good whatever. But that didn't seem to hamper Tim and Harvey at all.

Interviewer: I'm wondering when you first saw her just thinking about the comedy of that time period in the 60s and the 70s. Was it unusual to see a woman doing such hard physical comedy as Carol?

Betty White: I don't think it was that unusual for the hard physical comedy that Carol did, because Lucy had blazed that trail long before her. Lucy's physical comedy was incomparable. And my early days of sequences were always my series. We always did physical comedy. It's kind of fun. You never grow up.

Interviewer: Well, what was what was there sort of a stereotype, though, in the early period? So even in the 50s and 60s for women in comedy, what were the stereotypes?

Betty White: Well, first of women in comedy were usually the comedy was usually led by a man and she was the wife or she was the girlfriend or she was something like that. And actually, my first series was in 1951. Fifty fifty one and I produced it. And that was very unusual for up for a woman to be a producer and for a woman to to be the comedy. And we had a woman director, but I didn't know I was breaking any ground. It wasn't a saying about George. We're going to get women in there. I don't know. I just just two people I liked and people who work at this studio then left later way later, when the woman's movement came along, I thought, well, what else is new? But I never, ever felt any discrimination from from the guys on the set or the other men, nor Betty Turbeville was our director. I don't think she did either.

Interviewer: But was there sort of sort of tradition that--you're sort of the exception--that that women couldn't be sort of both feminine and funny?

Betty White: Oh, I think that a big misconception was that you can't be funny and beautiful and smart. You got to pick one, but you can't have the whole package. And Lucy kind of broke that model, too. She was beautiful. She was smart and she was funny. And then Carol came along and she was beautiful and she was smart and she was funny. But I used to love Carol singing. It was her singing that knocked me out. She did a show. My favorite song is Here's That Rainy Day and she could put me away with without any time she did it and she always ended it in the end of the song is funny. But here's that rainy day and she would just end up with funny and then let it hang there, like get goose bumps just talking about it.

Interviewer: Yeah. It's, it's funny. Most people I mean she had an amazing voice but she heard she never really considered herself a great singer.

Betty White: No, she, she just she was more an actress singer. You know, she she would act the lyrics and then think the lyrics. And you don't expect that with a funny lady. You you you don't expect to see that every once in a while she'd let you see through into the poignancy of.

Interviewer: And just going back to that idea of being feminine and funny. Can you talk more about how Carol did that? And I'm just thinking in the beginning of her show, she came out in those beautiful gowns and then the next sketch she's falling out of a window.

Betty White: Was exactly the Bob Mackie gowns that she would she would wear with the top of the line and so gorgeous and so fancy. And she would come out and answer the question answer period. That was always one of the highlights of her shows. And she would come out and talk to her grandma by pulling her ear and then she would be this dignified. She always had this sense of it, but she was this lovely lady in these beautiful clothes. And as you say, then she'd fall out of Windorah and she'd do a pratfall or she'd do something ridiculous or do terrible things with this pretty face. But if you notice, Carol had great legs. Things were wonderful. And somehow or other, we always got a chance to see you.

Interviewer: Can you talk about her face? I mean, I just feel like it seems like it was made of rubbers.

Betty White: Carol Burnett had probably the most expressive face in the world, but. She said she was never worried about what she looked like. Scuse me, darling. I'm going to cough. I'm sorry. Can we edit that out or do you want to leave it in? I cough so beautifully. Just let me just get this and I'll be right with you. Sorry. No, I just did that stop the whole day. Yeah. You can't get hold of her faiths. Carol Burnett's face. But you said it. If it was like I don't say that, I said, oh. Carol Burnett's face was. Well, sometimes she suspected it was made of rubber because she could do anything with it, but she never cared about how she looked. It wasn't always, well, like, I don't want to do that because I might not look wonderful. She would do terrible things with that face. And what I found such a delight, as long as we're talking about favorite things, when she and Julie Andrews got together, they they just spark each other to the point that here's this beautiful Julie Andrews, this lovely, lovely lady. And you saw the humorous side of Julie and the two of them. They just well, they just fire together. I could watch them forever.

Interviewer: Do you remember any favorite moments from their specials?

Betty White: It's been a while now, and I can't I can't be as specific as I would like to be, but it was just the beginning. I so much of it's in the eyes when somebody says something and, you know, the other one heard it and they sometimes you can almost see the decision. Should I say it or shouldn't I? Well, what the heck? Let's say in the end, that's when it's fun. You feel like you're in on the joke.

Interviewer: That's an interesting match because as you say, they seem so different. In fact, I think their opening number of their first special was about their differences at work.

Betty White: Julie and Carol couldn't be farther apart as far as the images we all had of them. But I think I'm not even sure they they did it on purpose. So I think they just found that they had magic in a bottle and they might as well go with.

Interviewer: You were mentioning about her making those funny faces and, you know, it seems that she did she exaggerated her appearance a lot, Carol, in her comedy. And I'm wondering, was that something of the times also? A little bit. Women in comedy would sort of use their appearance to, you know, if they weren't sort of less attractive, make themselves less attractive at all, thinking of Phyllis Diller made a lot of jokes about her appearance. She was a beautiful lady, but she didn't make herself appear that way.

Betty White: I think I think it's not so much timeliness of early comedy. I think it's the fact that the girls like to be pretty or dead in those days, at least sometimes I wonder these days. But they they like to be pretty. But then the contrast when all of a sudden a very pretty girl like Carol Burnett would do something out or Lucy would do something outrageous against type and not care what she looked like. I think that's what made the public adore her show and that's what made them go along with the comedy because they knew that she wasn't worrying about, well, I mustn't do that because I might not be as pretty as I should be.

Interviewer: Was comedy itself changing at that time to sort of more vaudeville and it was becoming something else?

Betty White: I think that was a big transition period at that time for comedy. Prior to that, women, again, had been that the wives or the girlfriends or that and. Even prior to that, they would do us a standup routine with a like Burns and Allen or various combos like that. So. There was a show called My Favorite Husband, and it did a half hour story line. And that's when the situation comedy started. Mine was life with Elizabeth and we had done sketches on a variety show an hour. I was on five and a half hours a day during the week, six days a week. But that wasn't enough. So we did an hour variety show at night and we did these married sketches. And the station manager called me in one day and said, Do you think you could make that into a half hour situation comedy in in my wisdom. I said, oh, no, that would never work, because if you're with friends in the evening, you tell an anecdote. It lasts about five minutes. But if you milk it to a half hour, it'll never work at a bend in the middle. That's how much I knew.

Interviewer: Years later, fifty years later,.

Betty White: Situation Comedy Club now has changed, particularly with women. But. Again, it's it's a whole different world. The audience has changed. Remember when we started. And and Carol, not that long after all those things, of course, was much later. But. If you did your stuff and it was a surprise to the audience. Now today the audience has heard every story. They've heard every joke. They know well the plots. They know when you open your mouth. They know where it's going. That's what makes it tougher. That's right. And in the comedy for the standup comics gets a little raunchier and raunchier these days. And you lose some of that. That to me, comedy has always been what you don't say. Physical comedy is marvelous. You make faces, you do fall down and you do those things in the spoken comedy. You leave right up and then you take another direction and the audience thinks you're going that way and they finish it for you. And it's funny now they just lay it all out. And I think it loses a little bit. I'm not critical of today's comedy. You can plainly see that.

Interviewer: Was Carol, particularly adept at that sort of leaving the silences as you see those faces, or would you ask that again with Carol particularly good at that.

Betty White: Carol was so wonderful at her own brand of comedy. I don't think she was into that. You don't say it because hers was not as much verbal comedy as it was the overall the whole girl.

Interviewer: How would you. We've talked about, Carol. See, they're both sort of the queens of TV at different times. And how were they different? What was what was unique about Carol that was different than Lucy?

Betty White: Lucy was first of all, she was so pretty, Carol wasn't pretty, but Lucy started out as a glamour girl. And the comedy came from that. And with Desi and all that, again, situation comedy, Carol, with she went back to the wonderful sketches where you could do you could do a very funny situation that didn't have to have a plotline or go anywhere. It was just here. It was. And let's let's get this out of our systems and be as funny as we can, and they will do something else.

Interviewer: Why do you think that Carol was more suited to doing the sketch or particularly suited to doing sketches as opposed to doing a sitcom? I know she had asked her if she wanted to do a situation comedy and she didn't.

Betty White: Well, I think Carol's choice was to do sketch sketch comedy because of the variety if you're on an hour every single week. Not that situation comedy and storylines, but it's a whole nother life. And you're playing just one character. Well, the fun of it is with sketch comedy. You're playing everybody in the world at some time or another.

Interviewer: Talk about the variety show format. A little bit if you want, just when it was sort of at its heyday and how popular it was and why it worked so well.

Betty White: I mean, personally, I miss the old variety shows because you had the music, you had the dancing, you had the sketches, and you had, let's say, a personality like Carol, whom you adored, and you saw her wander through all of those things and still be a gracious hostess with her guest stars. And I wish I wish somebody would get maybe just one left. Let's have a little look at that with dancing has become so popular. Put in another direction. It's not that it's not the dance numbers or the paragraph numbers as it used to be.

Interviewer: You hosted your own several shows. And I'm just wondering what what what is the key to being a successful host of a variety show like that? And what did, Carol?

Betty White: I think the secret to being the hostess of a show or the host. I think you have to keep in mind, and I it was obvious that Carol did. I think you have to keep in mind that you're never playing to a big audience. She'd come out and she'd play to their theater audience when she first came out. But from then on, you're only playing to two or three people. If they're more than two or three people in a room, they're not listening to you. They're talking to each other. But two or three people or one person. So you have to kind of think of the audience as an individual more than as a as a group. And if that's where the warmth comes in and that's where I think Carol excelled because she was she was your buddy. She was in a room with you. You were invited around and she came.

Interviewer: How did we feel that, do you think? How did we get that sense? Because I do think you're right. Audiences felt like she was you know, they knew her and she was a friend.

Betty White: Well, what other medium brings somebody right into your living room or into your den or into your bedroom when you're gonna go to sleep. You have to go see people in other venues where they come right in here into your house. And you don't have to share them with anybody. You've got them right there.

Interviewer: Do you think the Q&A sessions were part of that, too? Because it seemed like we weren't just seeing sketches. In other words, we were seeing the real Gerald to every night or every week.

Betty White: I think the beauty of the format of Carol's show was she could be, Carol. She could be herself. So then the two of you were in on this other character that she was playing and you were both enjoying that other character together.

Interviewer: Were the Q and A sections that she did, was that unique? Was that a new thing for television?

Betty White: I think a lot of times it was done in the warm up when you were talking to your audience that were there to see you. But I think her method of doing it on camera to open it up gave everybody a chance to see Carol Burnett, not Carol, the comedian. Carol, the funny lady. But Carol Burnett. And who she was and how she'd respond. And I think that's what made it kind of. It got you in the mood for the whole show once. You couldn't wait to hear how she was going to respond. And some of the questions would you'd say, well, now let's see how she handles this. It was like walking the edge of a cliff.

Interviewer: Do you remember any not specifics at this point in time?

Betty White: I wish I could. I mean, I hope things will come back every once in a while, you say, or remember that. But to just dredge them up. They were all, I thought, all wonderful.

Interviewer: It was very funny. I saw somebody just ask, where is the bathroom? She brought him up on stage,.

Betty White: Right down that turn left and go back.

Interviewer: You were one of the times you were on the family sketch with her and played Eunice's sister.

Betty White: Oh, I was the rotten Ellen. I was when we did. She invited me. It was supposed to be a one shot. She invited me to do were poor, put upon Eunice, her mean sister, who was the very well to do well off one. And then mom, of course, was such a rotten character. And so it was such fun because I had always sort of played up cheerful characters. And Ellen. Well, Ellen was just me. She didn't have a bone in her body. That wasn't mean. And it was such fun to play off of Eunice that way. So whoever would dream of that would go into a situation comedy of its own. We had a good time.

Interviewer: Can you talk about that? That character, Eunice, is so interesting to me because she she I mean, the sketches were hilariously funny, but she was kind of heartbreaking.

Betty White: Eunice was a very poignant, poignant lady. And I'm sure there were many in the audience who could identify with that character, you know, in many big families, thank God, I don't know that because I'm an only child. But in many big families, there's that one. There always seems to be the put upon one or or the middle child that mom likes, the firstborn and the baby, but the one in the middle kind of gets lost in the shuffle. And she brought that syndrome to life. And sometimes should you just hate everybody around her? You hate Mama, you'd hate Ellen and you'd hate all these people who were being so mean because they were not giving Eunice a break. That's that's great comedy.

Interviewer: Yeah. Carol said if you just read the script for some of those sketches. They really was more like Tennessee Williams than a comedy sketch. Exactly.

Betty White: But again, if you just read the script, it would it would maybe read to two down or two. The answer to that. But that's where Carol's body language and that's where her facial expressions and that's for her her her surefootedness came through so that you knew Eunice was gonna be all right. Because we won't let those other people hurt her.

Interviewer: Do you know at all if she drew from her own background that that.

Betty White: I don't know. I of course, I've read her books and I've done what I've known Carol and loved Carol for all these years. But I. I can't draw any analogy there. We know a lot of other other stories that are Carol's real life, but I don't know where that one came from. I'm just glad it came.

Interviewer: What what would she bring to that wasn't on the written page, or was she someone who really stayed close to a script or what did she bring herself?

Betty White: I don't think she. I don't think she would stay just a slave to the script. I don't think she would do all that in situation comedy. You sometimes you should do that or must do that because a lot of new people come in and they'll say, well, I'll put it in my own words because I'll say it funnier. But they put a couple of extra syllables in and they they lose the rhythm and they kill the joke. But Carol had such a sure-footed sense of comedy that I don't think she read all the commas and periods and exclamation points, but she still knew how to get from this point at that time without stepping on the land.

Interviewer: It's a lot of the expressions and things like that that she brought to those wouldn't would not be written into a script. Was that things that she just.

Betty White: I think by the time Carol Burnett became Carol Burnett. I think the writers were so aware of all the places they could go with her in all the things that she could do, that they would know that they'd lay out a situation, maybe a couple of lines and things like that. And. She should do the the lines as they should be, but she would bring so much else into it that I think they they knew where to put the spaces for her to do that. That's that. That's what comes of a good writing group with a good rapport with the star.

Interviewer: Just going back to the family sketch, for example, I know there was in that I think the first time you came on and it was mom's birthday. Do you recall that sketch? And she used to start reciting The Raven, I think. And Carol's just over there pouring wine? You know, jugging wine into a cup. Just watching her expression while you're, you know.

Betty White: How boring can this woman be and I hate this woman. Oh, that was fun. I also remember, as I say, it was a long time ago and I can't remember this. They all tend to blend there. I've been around in this business for 58 years. They begin to they begin to do this. But I remember at one point we were up in the attic and Ellen sits down on a whole set of fine China and she sits on it breaks off the China. That was what was also fun. One of the things that would lead Harvey and Tim down the garden path was in rehearsal, you throw stuff in or they'd throw stuff at him or something like that. And. And you get in a silly mood some of the time. He got into doing the actual show on the air. It didn't take much to tip you over the edge. Another thing that Carol is amazing about with all that wonderful talent and comedy and all that. She's such a pro and she's such of an organized person. Other shows you go over there and you'd work and you'd get home maybe 10, 11 o'clock at night on show day and on rehearsal day she had because she had wanted to get home and have a life off camera. Many times we'd be out of there at two o'clock in the afternoon and two two thirty and we'd get all the rehearsing done and all of horseplay done, but still not not devote your entire life. You had another life.

Interviewer: I'm wondering if you watched her at all. The Garry Moore Show and if you can talk about what you remember about seeing her on that show.

Betty White: Well, that was The Garry Moore Show was back in the days of all the early game shows. And it was such fun because you were doing all the like the goods and toplines shows and things like that. And when Carol came on Gary's show, I think he saw the gold that he could mine. All of a sudden, here's this lady who is different from anybody else at that time. You just you didn't expect the kind of comedy that she did out of that time, that young a person in the first place and that that kind of a girl, she should be doing other things. Look what she's making me laugh. Oh, and I think Gary appreciated that a great deal.

Interviewer: What can you say about that? What would people have expected out of the way? Carol Burnett looked at that time. She would be just more of a straight singer or something or or what was so surprising about her?

Betty White: Well, there maybe her any confidence, because even then she would always play like she didn't quite know what was going. But I think Carol has always been a pretty I use the word Sure-footed again because I think she would never let it get out of her control. Sometimes you can get carried away and be having so much fun and you say, how do I get it back? But I don't think she I think she was too smart to ever let it go beyond that.

Interviewer: Did you see her work all over the years? I mean, in the beginning, I'm on the jury more. So I was more worried about money and that sort of thing, and it didn't seem to change. Can you talk about what you saw? Have you saw change?

Betty White: Well, I think we all change over the years. I think each decade that goes by, we grow a little. With any luck, some of us do. Some others don't. But just the very age factor changes it. And Carol was never one to try to stay. I'm so young. I was sure she was just she was Carol. And and we grew up with her. We all grew along with her. And I think I think that's why we felt so comfortable with her. She wasn't trying to be something she wasn't. She knew we knew better.

Interviewer: Did you see her words, though, become more about, as you said earlier, that the change from more than just physical comedy and mugging to really more in depth character studies like Eunice?

Betty White: I think that the characters kind of evolve of themselves. Because she played so many characters, but I think also she had a wonderful staff and one friend, Joe Hamilton, of course, was the mentor in the beginning. And I think once they found somebody like that. Wait a minute. This is a little heavier. This is this is not just one of the sketches. This we should come back and revisit this. And I think that's how those characters would evolve. I think the audience helped point that out in many cases.

Interviewer: Do you think the show was the Carol Burnett Show series? Was it reflective of the time period at all, looking at what 70s television was and what was going on in the women's movement? What's going on?

Betty White: I, I think that the show tried to cover all the bases, as did so many other variety shows. They tried to cover all the bases. And I don't think they were trying to make brownie points or anything like that. It was just like and remember performers and this is not to take away from Carol. We know who she was, why the show worked. But the performer can come out, show night and do a dynamite show and then go home and at least think, OK, I don't have to do anything till Monday morning. The writers have to go home and think, oh, my God, we've got to do this again next week. What do we do? And so there's always that pressure. And when you the bigger a hit you are, the more the pressure is on to stay that way. So people don't say, oh, well, it's not as good as it used to be.

Interviewer: Did you ever sense that in Carol? She was carrying a major responsibility.

Betty White: Oh, I think you couldn't be in the business and not know that the load she was carrying. But I'm not sure she ever bothered the audience with that. I don't think she ever is. I think she just wanted the audience to enjoy their fun together. But you you couldn't ignore it if you knew anything about the business. You couldn't ignore that she was carrying a big load.

Interviewer: What was the relationship between she and Joe as far as the show goes?

Betty White: Oh, he was he was he was wonderful as far as the control and that and the a lot of control. And he he had the perspective to look at. When you're doing it, it's sometimes it's easy to get you don't get it. You can't stand out there and see what works and what doesn't work. And Joe could. I think he was very responsible in the early days for the for the professional success of the show.

Interviewer: Were there rules? Very clear. I mean, that he was the producer and she was. Star.

Betty White: I don't know what went on when they went home, but I think, you know, in the early days, I think Joe was very, very much the boss. At least that's the impression that I got. That may have changed the minute they walked through the front door. I don't know.

Interviewer: Do you remember when the show was announced? The Carol Burnett Show what your thoughts were about the idea of Carol as a choice to host a variety show?

Betty White: When The Carol Burnett Show was first announced, it became such a such a part of all our lives that I really can't remember when I first heard it. I guess I was thrilled because this lady that we've seen with Garry Moore and all that was going to do a show of her own. But once once we sampled it, we were hooked.

Interviewer: Did you watch any of her later dramatic work?

Betty White: Oh, yes, friendly fire and many of many of those that, again, you were seeing a different a different Carol. And then through her later life, with the problems that she had it. The pain you felt, the pain because you loved her and. Writing the show with her daughter and then losing her daughter so close once in a while. Carolyn, I have lunch together and. Again, it's what you don't say that that means more than what you do say, you don't say all the things are how are you doing or anything like that. You just when you see each other, you just hold a little title tighter and an. Try to be business as usual.

Interviewer: What do you say? She has had a fair amount of, you know, tragedy and.

Betty White: She's had her share. Trust me.

Interviewer: And do you think that came through? I mean, as you say, just watching her in friendly fire or some of the other dramatic works, it was almost like a oh, a well, but she could dip.

Betty White: I think everybody's life now gives them the storage cabinet where they can open this door and take some of that out because they remember that. If you don't if you don't keep some of that storage. Available. It makes your life a lot, you can't just go in and forget it ever happened and just move on. You can do that to get through a bad time. But then when something comes along, let's say a role comes along where instead of trying to dredge it up out of whole cloth. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I know what this is about.

Interviewer: Were you surprised at.

Betty White: May I ask a question? American Masters, when when this is gonna...

Interviewer: It will air in November.

Betty White: In November.

Interviewer: Yes. I don't have a date yet, but I know they want it for November sweeps. Oh, sometime in two weeks.

Betty White: Oh, great. I just didn't want to miss it.

Interviewer: No doubt we will let everyone know how fast tracked finishing this day. You talked about Carol as a singer. A little bit. And I'm just wondering if you could talk about. Do you recall singing together with her and what that was like.

Betty White: I don't remember singing that much with Carol, but I remember just as an audience loving her singing. But then it was always kind of choreography going on that did you not? You were a dancer, but you would just move with you, as they say, move. Well. And so that's why it's such fun today. When you go various places, you run into some of the old choreographers or some of the old chorus boys. And it's it's like old home week. It's such fun because they were always so supportive of the guest person coming in and they just do everything they could to make it work for you, which is lovely.

Interviewer: I think there was one that you did with marching bands?

Betty White: Oh, that was the first one. I still have that outfit. I think that was the first one we ever did. The marching band. One white thing with a gold braid and stuff like that, all when it was such fun because I didn't get to do much variety or musical numbers since early on. I used to sing four songs on my show, but. But that's different to doing, you know, marching to. Oh, that was great fun. I remember rehearsing that up in front of the mirror in my bedroom and just having a ball. I think I left a lot of it up in the bedroom, but it was fun.

Interviewer: And I think the idea was was was afraid of marching bands and you were trying to cure her.

Betty White: Was that it? I don't remember what the premise was. I just remember and I also remember that outfit. I think we finally gave it away for an auction. And then and I hated to part with it.

Interviewer: Carol have said that she was never comfortable with her singing voice. And she always, you know, if she was singing with someone such as yourself or doing like a character or a story, it was one thing. But to just get out there as a singer. Did did did you notice that at all, that she wasn't quite as..?

Betty White: Carol's thought of herself as, you know, other things more than a singer and maybe she was not as comfortable doing as straight? No. But that shows how much she knows. Because we sure enjoyed.

Interviewer: Just as a comedian yourself. I'm just what? What is it that you most admire in watching or even at the time that you admired or been watching her?

Betty White: I think the thing I'm I'm I was most impressed by with Carol was she had an awful lot of people to deal with. With staff and other cast members and in a show that was on every week. Was the fact that she she could kind of make her time valuable. She wouldn't waste a lot of time. Some of us get horsing around or kidding around with other people. And you. You waste valuable time that way. And, you know, it's a hard thing to carry yourself of, and sometimes you never carry yourself on it. But Carol, with all our humor and all our fun, was very businesslike. I remember just silly side anecdote. One thing I remember, I was going to do our show at night and we pulled in the CBS parking lot and at the same time and she was parked over there and I parked. And course we'll always hug and kiss because we really love each other. And she got out of the car and Placido domingo got out of the car and she introduced me and I said, Do you know how nice it was to meet him? And then I just gave her a look. She said, Eat your heart out. I just loved it. Eat your heart out.

Interviewer: Was there anything groundbreaking about her? Looking back, was there anything she was doing that was absolutely just new?

Betty White: I that's I don't know how groundbreaking any specific thing that she did would be, but just the fact that a woman goes to the top of her particular venue and holds on that long. What was the show on like 11 years, wasn't it? And that's a long time for anything to last usually. If it goes seven years, you're in you're in great shape. But but for her to still maintain that and then go on to a further career, but to maintain that top position for that long. That was groundbreaking.

Interviewer: And that is when you think about it. I mean, that's over a decade. I mean, the world is changing over that time period. Somehow, her show was still very popular.

Betty White: Well, I think a lot of that credit goes. We can never take credit from writers. Writers are as as wonderful as people are on the screen without that writing or that quality writing you. You can't do it all by yourself for for over that long period. And I think they they gathered the best and the brightest and again, who had confidence in their in their star and gave her a safe cushion within which to do her great stuff.

Interviewer: I know you said, you know, there was Lucy before her and others, but it was comedy. Those still kind of a boys club at that time.

Betty White: Well, I think I thought we should. Yeah, because in the early days when I started in 1950, most of the comedy shows were built around the man. And then the woman filled in the family places or the girlfriend or whatever. But it it didn't take long. You know, once once you open the door to girls, they take over. You know how that goes.

Interviewer: And it was in the 70s where there were a lot of you just talk a little bit more about the 70s time period for television. Were there a lot of other variety shows on at the time or was Carol sort of the last one?

Betty White: I think Carol's variety show lasted longer than a lot of the others, but for a long time. And again, I can't make a list of them at this point because it's been a long time. But Variety was a big number and people were were vying with each other to get the guest stars. Well, we got someone, so. And if someone so does our show, we're not going to let them do that show or whatever. So there was high competition because there are just that many talented people. And if you've got a lot of variety shows, you know, the competition is very, very rife.

Interviewer: Any other specific memories about doing her show or any of the other sketches that you did together?

Betty White: Well, the thing I remember most about. When Carol called me and said, would I do her show? I said, Well, are you sure? Again, then she sent me the script and that sort of thing. And I thanked her profusely. And, you know, that was great. And I hung up and I'm going to do that show. And I was very professional from then on.

Interviewer: You said, sure, if you like. Right. I think that's great.

Betty White: No, darling, thank you very much.

Betty White
Interview Date:
2007-05-29
Runtime:
0:44:17
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-6688g8g20j, cpb-aacip-504-x921c1vc02
MLA CITATIONS:
"Betty White, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 29 May. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/569
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, May 29). Betty White, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/569
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Betty White, Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 29, 2007. Accessed February 27, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/569