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In Such Good Company' a sweet showbiz memoir

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New book peeks behind the scenes of 'The Carol Burnett Show'

The list of names that would warrant discussion for inclusion in the pantheon of television comedy is a relatively short one. And the list of women on that list would be unfortunately (and undeservedly) far shorter.

However, few could argue that one of the names on that list is Carol Burnett. Her 'The Carol Burnett Show' in many ways set the standard for the TV variety show in the 60s and 70s. The show's 11-season run is marked by some of the greatest comic moments in the medium's history.

Burnett shares stories of that run in her new book 'In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox' (Crown; $28). The comedian shares a behind-the-scenes look at the show's origins and evolution, from its initial conception all the way up through the final episode.

Anything you want to know about the show, it's likely here in some form. There's plenty of talk about the many performers, for instance; Burnett writes about co-stars like Harvey Korman and Tim Conway with a deep affection that is tinged with awe at their massive comedic talents. She sings the praises of regulars like Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, celebrating their less-showy, but no less significant contributions to the show.

Burnett shows a lot of love to the guest stars, as well. It's a list with a lot of big names on it, but judging from the anecdotes being shared, very few of them sported egos to match. Lucille Ball, Bernadette Peters, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Swanson huge stars proved willing to sing, dance and make fools of themselves alongside Burnett and the rest of the crew.

And willingness was definitely key. While there's no doubt that an appearance on 'The Carol Burnett Show' was a lot of fun, it was also an almost stunning amount of work. Since syndication largely truncated the episodes from an hour to 30 minutes, many people don't remember that the show also featured plenty of lavish musical numbers with ridiculous production value. And on a weekly schedule where they taped live on Fridays, they essentially had six days to put every show together. It's a process that would never work today and hardly seems like it would have worked thenbut it did.

Burnett also talks about some of her favorite sketches from over the years, offering up her thoughts on long-running characters like the Charwoman, running sketches like 'The Family' and classic one-off sketches such as 'Went With the Wind,' a 'Gone With the Wind' parody that includes a bit that some consider to be the funniest sight gag in TV history.

(Seriously: if by some chance you don't know what I'm talking about, use your internet box and find it. I envy anyone who gets to see it for the first time.)

Most people who came of age during that time or even in the years that followed, thanks to the magic of syndication were exposed to some extent to the madcap mania of Burnett and her gifted crew of regulars and guest stars. What this book does is pull back the curtain a little bit to reveal that, yes, they were more or less all having as much fun as it looked like they were having.

Burnett writes with the easygoing tone and self-aware, self-deprecating humor that is exactly what you'd expect. The conversational nature of the writing turns it into an intimate experience, a one-on-one chat with a very funny woman with a rich history and fantastic storytelling acumen. Her affection for all those involved is genuine; this is someone who absolutely adores the people that she spent a decade working with. That says a lot both about Burnett and about the people with whom she saw fit to surround herself.

'In Such Good Company' will disappoint those who came looking for dirt or disgruntled mudslinging; it's not that kind of book. There's nothing salacious about it. Instead, it's a sweet stroll down memory lane from someone recounting a wonderful time in her life; light and airy and swelling with grace and gratitude.

'The Carol Burnett Show' is one of TV history's most beloved programs; why not hear its story straight from the mouth of the woman who made it so?

1 comment

  • Comment Link Scot Saturday, 27 May 2017 00:19 posted by Scot

    Asking questions are really fastidious thing if you are not understanding anything fully, except this post provides fastidious understanding even.

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