Fall 2015

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Page 60 of 115 | Fall 2015 | SAG-AFTRA 59 C arol Burnett has always been a trailblazer. As the first woman to grace television screens as the host of her own variety show, Burnett has never been afraid to challenge the status quo, push boundaries or shake things up — often for the sake of a laugh. Burnett's innate comedic gift has made her one of the world's most beloved and successful comedians. Well known for her iconic characters — fan-favorites from her 11-year run as the star of the critically acclaimed The Carol Burnett Show include her signature Tarzan yell and the memorable characters Starlet O'Hara, the Charwoman and Eunice — Burnett's star has always shined brightest when she's playing her most famous role: herself. With a career spanning more than six decades (she joined AFTRA in 1955 and SAG in 1962) and a slew of awards — multiple Golden Globe and Emmy wins, a special Tony, a Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — Burnett can now add the SAG Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment to her list. The legendary funnywoman, actor and author is the 52nd recipient of SAG-AFTRA's highest honor, awarded annually to an actor who represents the "finest ideals of the acting profession." "With Carol's quick wit, affable nature and infectious energy, she is truly a master of her craft. We all know the aphorism 'comedy is hard.' Well, Carol makes it look easy, while still being a dynamo in dramatic roles, as well," said SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard. Burnett said she's excited to be receiving the Life Achievement Award at the upcoming SAG Awards on Jan. 30, but admits, "I'm a little nervous about it. I've watched the show on television before, like when Dick Van Dyke got it, and they panned the audience, and I thought, 'Oh my god, there's Meryl Streep! There's Brad Pitt!'" Burnett's appearance at the SAG Awards caps off several months of her being in the spotlight: The recent release of a 22-disc DVD set featuring a compilation of "lost" episodes saw Burnett visit The Talk, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Today, The Howard Stern Show, The Rachael Ray Show and others. In September, CBS honored Burnett by dedicating the artist entrance to CBS Television City, her home away from home for so many years, as the Carol Burnett Artist Entrance. She just filmed an episode of Hawaii Five-0, where she recurs as McGarrett's Aunt Deb. And on Jan. 8, PBS will air Burnett's recent performance before the president and the first lady on A Celebration of American Creativity: In Performance at the White House. Although she's known for her sense of humor, Burnett's life has not always been full of laughter. Born to two volatile, alcoholic parents and raised by her eccentric grandmother in a rundown studio apartment on the outskirts of Hollywood, Burnett's childhood was one of financial hardship and loneliness. Although she initially aspired to be a writer, a chance acting class during her freshman year at UCLA led Burnett to discover her true passion — comedy. When she stole the show one evening with an improvised gag, the audience's laughter was infectious, and Burnett soon discovered she loved hearing the sound. Making people laugh would become a passion she would continue to pursue for decades to come. Despite her engaging performance style, Burnett initially struggled to build a career as an actress. While she dreamed of performing in comedic musicals on Broadway, she could not afford the cost of moving to New York. In a stroke of good fortune, an anonymous benefactor saw her perform a piece from Annie Get Your Gun during her sophomore year at UCLA. So taken by her talents, he offered her a $1,000 loan to travel to New York, so long as she paid it back within five years and, in the future, helped other struggling performers succeed. Upon moving to New York, she found limited work as a performer and supported herself mainly by taking odd jobs — Left, Burnett as her iconic Charwoman character on The Carol Burnett Show. Center, Burnett as Nora Desmond, a parody of the character Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Right, a 1975 studio portrait of the cast of The Carol Burnett Show featuring Burnett, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Harvey Korman. JOHN NOWAK CBS X3

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