ARTISTS WE LOVE: So Glad for Time Together with Carol Burnett

The final episodes of Better Call Saul on AMC offered their share of surprises but perhaps none more enjoyable than the appearance of Carol Burnett.

The veteran comedienne played Marion, the mother of a small-time hood recruited by our title character for a few heists. Initially charmed by smooth-talking Saul, Marion gradually realizes he isn’t on the up and up. 

Carol Burnett as Marion in Better Call Saul.

Burnett’s fans are saluting her with a social media campaign to have her host Saturday Night Live.

It’s similar to a 2010 campaign that resulted in Betty White hosting the show.

If successful, the Twitter-based campaign would return Burnett to Saturday night television, over which she reigned from her 9 p.m. Eastern time slot from 1967 to 1978.

Carol isn’t part of SNL’s recent announcement of its first three hosts for the new season – Miles Teller on Oct. 1, Brandon Gleeson on Oct. 8 and Megan Thee Stallion on Oct. 15.

The Carol Burnett Show featured comedy sketches and musical guests, as did most variety programs of the era. What set Burnett’s show apart was its supporting cast – Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Wagoner. Years before SNL introduced the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, Burnett and her crew were an ensemble, seasoned laugh-getters with excellent timing and comedic instincts. They were so good that they often cracked each other up during skits. YouTube has several compilations of clips from the show in which one or more of the actors will struggle and strain not to burst out laughing. Often, they weren’t successful.

The cast of The Carol Burnett Show.

Burnett’s show was taped before a live audience, so those moments of breaking character could have been re-shot. Instead, those scenes were left in. Part of the reasoning must have been that the studio audience found the crack-ups hilarious and responded accordingly.

Korman seemed particularly vulnerable to Conway’s characters. Korman would try to keep a straight face when Conway unleashed a barrage of one-liners and physical comedy to keep Korman in stitches. One skit of Conway as a novice dentist trying to give his patient Korman a shot of Novacaine, stands out as one of the pair’s funniest. 

Lawrence had Burnett in stitches – try as Carol might to hide it – in this “The Family” skit. Lawrence’s straight face doesn’t waver as Burnett barely contains her laughter.  

The spontaneity made the performers seem more real, more human, than most other TV characters. It also suggested a camaraderie among the cast. They liked each other, they loved performing together and they were having fun.

So mark our ballots “yes” in voting for Carol Burnett to host SNL. The late-night show could only benefit from Burnett’s talents, and she deserves another reign as the TV laugh queen of Saturday night.  

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