When Carol Burnett discovered that the crew on The Carol Burnett Show were mocking her during the show’s Q&A segment, she found the perfect way to get back at them. Her epic prank involved some clever use of wardrobe.
Carol Burnett said she got ‘ticked off’ at the show’s crew
During a 2018 interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Burnett shared how the Q&A segment of her show allowed her to think on her feet and answer questions. She had no advance notice of what she’d be asked so it was challenging but rewarding.
Burnett found out at one point that her crew were making fun of her during this segment by making wisecrack comments with each other through their earpieces.
“Whenever I’d go out and do Q&A and I’d get a question, sometimes the crew — the cameramen, the people in the crew — would be laughing before I would even give an answer,”
Burnett explained. “It’s because they have earphones in and the guys in the booth would be making funny jokes. The crew would laugh and I’d get ticked off.”
Burnett found a clever way to get back at them
Once Burnett was clued in to what was happening behind the scenes, she came up with a plan and called on the expertise of costume designer Bob Mackie to create a turtleneck dress. It allowed her to hide a wire to her earpiece so she could listen in to the crew undetected, as her hair and turtleneck hid the wire out of view.
Not only did Burnett know what they were saying, but she could tailor her response based on what the crew members were chattering about.
When an audience member asked her when she was going to make a movie, Burnett heard the show’s director in the booth say, “Who the hell cares?,” so she answered, “Oh you know, I would, but who the heck would care?”
Another person asked her to do her Tarzan yell and she heard a member of the crew say,
“Yeah, we’ve heard that for a thousand times.” Burnett answered the audience member, “Oh, I would, but you know I bet I’ve done this a thousand times.”
The crew caught on to her prank, with someone saying, “She’s got a wire, she’s got a wire!”
Burnett’s husband, who was a producer on the show, asked her on their drive home if she was wearing a wire and she answered, “What are you talking about?
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Carol Burnett once got revenge on a co-star
The crew weren’t he only ones that Burnett got her revenge on. After co-star Tim Conway was responsible for one of the show’s most famous bloopers when he told an elephant story that made everyone in the sketch break, Burnett found the perfect payback.
Conway notoriously told a story about Siamese elephants joined at the trunk during one of the sketches featuring “The Family.” Burnett never wanted the cast to break, especially during sketches featuring these characters.
In her memoir In Such Good Company, Burnett explained,
“After Tim’s outrageous ad-lib about the Siamese elephants during a ‘Family’ sketch earlier that season, I decided that I was going to get back at him with my own unrehearsed and outrageous elephant story.”
She was able to get back at Conway by giving him a taste of his own medicine. During sketches where Conway’s character had to say very little while Burnett’s “pigeon lady” blabbed endlessly with a series of crazy stories, she interjected an elephant story of her own. Her co-star could only sit their silently and take it.
Burnett described this as “the perfect revenge,” noting Conway was “at my mercy this time.”