March is women’s history month (in the US).
I’m doing posts about women who’ve inspired me.
There were a few things we did as a family, nearly religiously. We had Thanksgiving, ExMass, and Easter together with my grandparents. We spent all summer at one of two farms. We did the stupid paper hat thing on New Calendar Eve. Sunday nights, my mother would make me a little “nest” in front of the television, and we’d watch Disney, Happy Days, and the Carol Burnett show.
Burnett, the first comedian to make me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe (it was “Mrs. H-Wigggins” and her pencil sharpening schtick). She is smart, sassy, ridiculously funny, and brave. I only vaguely remember some of the questions that would come up in the first segment of her show (she entertained questions from the audience before the show started), but I will never forget how I thought she was honest and real and so very, very smart. [As an aside, I heard via my Muppets connections that she was the first celebrity to appear on Sesame Street. Which is wicked cool. I do remember her on Sesame Street. She has the world’s best double-take.]
My family values humour quite highly. Whenever anything truly awful happens, we deal with it with humour as much as we can. Whenever anything truly wonderful happens, it’s always accompanied with belly laughs. God forbid if someone should do something stupid. You will never forget it. Never.
It’s because of this, I think, that Carol Burnett made such a huge impression on me. I’d watched Lucille Ball, and I admire her as well. But the Carol Burnett show didn’t use a laugh track, and besides, it was “my generation”. Having said that, she and Lucille Ball were, supposedly, very close. Wikipedia even tells me that Ball appeared on Burnett’s variety show in the mid sixties. Burnett did a variety show in the late sixties and seventies, despite being told that only men could pull off a variety show. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Garry Moore Show, The Ed Sullivan Show for example – this was a time when women weren’t taken seriously as entertainers unless they were burlesque dancers. Female comedians simply didn’t get work.
But she worked her arse off. And she worked her arse off making people happy. I played a couple of sketches from that show for The Captain the night he ripped his toenail off (on purpose) and he damn near fell off his chair. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Carol Burnett’s parody of “Gone with the Wind”, I don’t think I’d have bothered watching that movie.
I have also appreciated that Carol Burnett never seemed to get caught up in the Hollywood malarky that most celebrities do. She kept her private life private. As my grandfather used to say, “that redhead. She’s a class act.”