Why Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be honoring Carol Burnett

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will give Carol Burnett the lifetime achievement award at the SAG Awards ceremony on Jan. 30. What is Burnett's legacy?

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Carol Burnett will receive the Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award.

Comedian Carol Burnett will be the recipient of the 2016 Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award this year and the prize will be given to her by actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on Jan. 30. 

Burnett is best known for the ground-breaking TV program “The Carol Burnett Show,” which ran from 1967 to 1978. The TV show was a variety program and also starred such actors as Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence. 

Burnett also appeared in such films as “Annie,” “Noises Off,” and “Horton Hears a Who!” 

Of being called an entertainer helping pave the way for other women working in comedy, Burnett said in an interview with Reuters, “I've been told that Amy (Schumer), and all of them, mention my name, but if I'd never been born, they'd be doing what they're doing. They would be where they are today. I appreciate the trailblazer label, but I don't think that's really the case.” 

However, her TV program “Burnett” has been cited often by critics as a revolutionary show. 

“Burnett could do it all: Sing, dance, tug her viewers’ hearts as effortlessly as she tugged on her ear,” Variety staff wrote when placing “Burnett” on the magazine’s list of 25 programs that changed television. “But the genius of her long-running variety show burned brightest in its comedy sketches that showcased the impeccable chemistry between the star and series regulars Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner and Vicki Lawrence. There were plenty of smart parodies, but slapstick ruled the day – a big reason why the show’s appeal cut across generations.”

Time Magazine also placed “Burnett” on their list of the best TV programs ever

“Comic veteran Burnett assembled a tight, remarkably stable ensemble of regulars (Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner) and put out a consistent show that owed as much to personality as brilliant writing,” staff wrote. “But what carried it was the good-feeling chemistry between the cast and the versatility of the star, a charming redhead who packed a mighty Tarzan yell.” 

Both Fey and Poehler have previously spoken about how they were influenced by Burnett.

“We all hail Carol as the queen for a lot of reasons,” Poehler said in an interview for a DVD of episodes of “Burnett.” “One is because we grew up watching her, and we will always have those memories of discovering comedy with her and through her. And the other is that she’s so versatile.” 

Fey said in an interview for the same DVD that she thinks relatability is key. 

“She has all these talents – like she can sing, and she’s so funny, and she’s a great physical comedian – [but] you feel like she could have grown up on your street,” Fey said.

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