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The Best Carol Burnett Quotes on Comedy, Perseverance, Empowerment, and More

You can't talk about women in TV or comedy without talking about Carol Burnett. She’s a trailblazer who inspired generations after her, thanks to her eponymous series for CBS, The Carol Burnett Show. Launched in 1967, when television executives were sure no one would watch a women-led variety sketch show, it became a blockbuster hit — winning 23 Emmys over 10 seasons and entering the pantheon among the greatest TV shows of all time.

Texas-born but raised in Hollywood, Burnett started down the journalism path at UCLA but ended up in theater. She made her first splash on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress in 1959, earning her first Tony nomination before moving on to TV. Her Emmy-winning physical comedy bits on The Garry Moore Show led to appearances alongside Lucille Ball and Julie Andrews and, finally, The Carol Burnett Show, which cemented her stardom.

Burnett went on to play a host of interesting roles in film and TV, from the villainess Miss Hannigan in Annie, to Helen Hunt’s mom on Mad About You. As testament to her influence, in 2019, the Golden Globes created the Carol Burnett Award for career achievement in television.

All along, Burnett has been an outspoken advocate for women. A supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, she has been vocal about supporting fellow women in comedy and elevating more women to executive positions in film and TV. So many comedians who have followed — Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amy Schumer, and many more — have cited Burnett’s influence in creating their own shows and blazing their path. Ahead are just a few of her most memorable words of wisdom.

How would I like to be remembered? I know this is kind of corny, but, ‘she made me laugh.’ Because that's a good feeling.

I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t had certain setbacks. They made me open different doors and made me stronger.

We all get where we’re going by circuitous journeys, and some of the setbacks are warranted.

I’ve had such a charmed life and I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people who care and are kind… I sure lucked out.

Funny is funny, even if it’s old and it happened a long time ago.

I taught myself how to fall. I did get bruised occasionally. I never broke anything jumping out of windows, walking into walls, taking pratfalls.

My ear grew. It’s a millimeter or two longer from pulling it on the air.

I heard the laughs and thought, ‘This is it. I want to, the rest of my life, make people laugh.’ So that’s what happened, it was out of the blue.

I knew there was something out there I could do and I was never afraid. I think it was because of the movies, because they weren’t cynical. I had no cynicism.

I had nothing in my mind about fame. All I wanted was to be able to perform and pay my rent and buy clothes and food.

There’s a trick to playing a villain. The villain never thinks they are a villain. They think the world is against them.

I’ll really be happy when there are as many women in power positions as there are men.

I think it’s very important for women to be portrayed in strong roles on TV. Why not? We’re just as strong as the guys.

As for the career, sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about being young again and doing it all over. Then I bring myself up short when I realize how incredibly fortunate I was.

I’ve always believed that kids are great actors. They ‘become’ what they look like.

Photo credit: Everett Collection Inc/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Courtney E. Smith
Courtney E. Smith is an author, podcaster, and editor based in Dallas, Texas.
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