If it’s any consolation, even Carol Burnett gets emotional when she hears “I’m so glad we had this time together.”
The song Burnett would sing every night to end The Carol Burnett Show, became his signature. It’s what plays as the entrance music whenever she appears on a talk show. It accompanies clip packages whenever she is celebrated in a chic Hollywood tribute. It’s personal, for her and for us.
In the melodious piano keys of this song, and the earnestness of Burnett’s voice as he sings it, carries decades of memories: of children watching The Carol Burnett Show with their parents or grandparents; women who watch the show and are inspired to follow its star’s exuberant spirit; all the love, loss and relationships that are embedded in a song that has become so indelible.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Carol Burnett: 90 years of laughter + love ends with a rendition of the song; of course it is.
The star-studded television special, which airs Wednesday night on NBC and airs the following day on Peacock, is a look back at the illustrious career of a national icon. It’s a look back at the jaw-dropping way his ferocious talent paved the way and changed the entire entertainment landscape, driven by the very people whose careers are indebted to him.
After the likes of Cher, Julie Andrews, Lily Tomlin, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Kristin Chenoweth, Bob Mackie, Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern and Allison Janney – and so many other names, one wonders if Hollywood sets have simply been Forced to Go Dark On the day the special was filmed – everyone paid their heartfelt and hilarious tributes, Katy Perry took the stage to perform “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.”
Near the end of the number, Perry descends from the stage and sits next to Burnett, who sings the last four bars: “…comes the time when we have to say, ‘So long.'”
“I kind of choked up,” Burnett told The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. “I have to say it was such a night. It was two and a half hours of joy, and also of tears. It was the way to end it, I know.
You should hear Carol Burnett raving about her birthday party.
As we speak, the special had just been filmed (its Wednesday night airing is timed for Burnett’s 90th birthday). And, as I learned, she would probably disagree with it being called a “birthday party” at all.
“When they talked about doing this, I said I didn’t want a birthday party,” she says. “I don’t want cake. I don’t want balloons and confetti. I want it to just be a fun show and have lots of music. The result: a 19-piece live orchestra and a roster of talent bookings that Oscar producers would be seething with envy.
She begins to list the names of the people who have appeared, her voice sounding increasingly flattered and giddy with each one. Her description of each act is followed by an awestruck superlative: “That was so sweet.” “It was so much fun.” “There were just a lot of, Oh…” she said, catching her breath, “heart. Lots of heart. ».
Bernadette Peters, Billy Porter and Jane Lynch sang a medley of Anne, joined at the end by Annie from the film herself, Aileen Quinn, who performed “Tomorrow”. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Burnett said. “It was amazing.”
Tomlin talked about an interaction they had on a soundstage when Tomlin was just starting to laugh. “You gave me the most confidence in the world,” she tells Burnett. “Carol, it’s Carol, isn’t it?” she continues, as the audience erupts in laughter, “The love we all share with you tonight is a small reward for all the love you’ve shown us over the years.”
Peters and Chenoweth sang a tribute to the TV specials Burnett staged with opera singer Beverly Sills and, of course, those with her good friend, Julie Andrews. Andrews – “buddy”, as Burnett calls him – sat next to Burnett all evening, hailing from New York for the occasion. “I can’t believe it’s been 62 years, if not more, since we first met, mate,” Andrews tells him in the special. “We went from landlines to cellphones to texting, and, oh, did we laugh along the way.”
“It was just lovely,” Burnett says, still sounding overwhelmed. “I have a little tears in my eyes.”
Cher, wearing a shimmering gold dress and ornate circular headpiece, told how, when The Sonny and Cher Show was beginning, Bob Mackie realized that she and Burnett were the same height and borrowed clothes from Burnett’s wardrobe to dress Cher. Later, when Cher struck out on her own, Burnett was a close confidante. “She’s the kind of woman, the kind of star, that if you meet her, you’ll never be disappointed,” Cher said in the special.
One of the things that struck Burnett the most was the focus on his entire career – his entire life, really. There were clips from his Broadway debut in Mattress Once upon a timeof his first star appearances on The Garry Moore Showand even one of her in 1956 in the variety series, Omnibusperforming a song by Leonard Bernstein.
Of course, a lot of time has been spent on The Carol Burnett Show, including a touching tribute from surviving actor Vicki Lawrence. Marisa Tomei came on stage dressed as Burnett’s incompetent office secretary character, Mrs. Wiggins, then interviewed Mackie about everything The Carol Burnett Showmost iconic costumes from, ending with a surprise appearance by Maya Rudolph in the legendary I went with the wind curtain rod dress.
The segment introduced by Cher, from the show’s history of iconic duets with great musicians and stars, particularly resonated with Burnett.
“I remember going to the movies with my grandmother when I was little,” she says. “We saved our pennies.” Fast forward a decade or two, and the celebrities they had adored and talked about together — Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Rooney — were appearing as guests on his own show.
“My favorite actor of all time, Jimmy Stewart, surprised me at our last show,” she continues. “I wish my grandma had been alive to see all of this, because it was a dream come true. We would go to the movies, and I would come home and play them with my best friend on the block. We would do Tarzan and Jane, and we would do Betty Grable and June Haver, all of that. And then have a show where I could be these people in costume and have music and lighting… let me put it this way: I think I’m one of the luckiest chicks in the world. I had so much fun.
It’s an overwhelming experience to hear from some of the most famous people working today how much you mean to them – strangers, close friends. But the truth is, people have been saying these things to Burnett for decades now. On a night like this, however, does it strike differently? Is Burnett able to see how her work in the industry has affected the way those people who spring from her on stage perform?
“Maybe,” she said, laughing. “What I always say, and I tell them, is, ‘If I had never been born, they’d be doing what they’re doing. So yes, if I helped a little, I’m happy. But the impact is not so necessary, because the talent will prevail. Whether I was there or not, they would do what they do.
She does answer one final question, though: On occasions like this, when she sits down and looks back on her entire career, is there something she’s most proud of?
“It would have to be the variety show that lasted 11 years, when in the beginning CBS had no interest in doing it,” she says. “They had to do it because I had him in a contract to do 30 shows, so they had to put me on the air. I had no idea we were going to run that long.
She remembers the first recording with original co-stars Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Lawrence. “I just said, ‘You know what? We have 30 shows we’re going to do, and we don’t know what the future will be. So let’s go and have fun. And that’s what we’ve done. Instead of 30 shows we ran for 270 something. They actually wanted a spec for a 12th grade, but I decided we should leave before we were asked to leave.
It’s always a good idea, I suggest. “Yeah, before they start turning the lights on and off, we should get out of there.” With that, we say goodbye and, naturally, that we are so happy to have spent this time together.
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