3 Questions for Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett is still standing after all those pratfalls. And she’s working on a pilot for a new ABC sitcom. Hollywood is welcoming her back to TV.

There are lots of giggles in her latest book, In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox (Crown Archetype). Serious moments too: “Sadly, variety shows have gone the way of the dodo bird,” she writes. “A variety show today can never do what we did. Why? Money. The cost of clearing the songs would sink the Titanic. Sixty to seventy costumes a week? No way. A 28-piece orchestra? Major guest stars? … Dream on.”

Carol confessed that she always adored chasing after belly laughs. That “best medicine,” as she calls it, got her fame and love and served her well in sad times.

Jeanne Wolf: In your book, you describe how your mother lived down the hall and you hardly ever saw your dad. When you look back, was there a lot of pain?
Carol Burnett: Yes, but Nanny [her grandmother] was my rock. In her eyes I was the number-one person in her world, so I felt safe with her. Even though my dad was an alcoholic, he was never abusive. He was just useless. The greatest pain I ever had came after he had been on the wagon because his mother had leukemia and asked him to stop drinking. That period was joyful. Then she died and Daddy showed up at the apartment, and he was weaving. He said, “I’ve just had one little beer,” and he passed out. I got so angry. I said, “I hate you! You said as long as I prayed for you, you’d never drink again!”

JW: Did your mom or your dad ever get to see you after you became such a success in New York?
CB: No, but Nanny saw me a couple of times on Broadway and TV. Our apartment was in Hollywood, and Nanny knew all the extras in the movies because they hung out in our neighborhood. When I was already doing well, she had a mild heart attack. So she’s in the hospital and there’s this line of extras in costumes lined up at her door to cheer her up. There was a man with a harmonica playing while his daughter, wearing a tutu, was doing a tap dance, twirling a baton, and ending in a split! Once she finished, Nanny said, “Well, thank you very much, I’ll tell Carol about you. Send in the next one.” It was like she was auditioning them.

“Daddy showed up at the apartment, and he was weaving. He said, ‘I’ve just had one little beer,’ and he passed out.”

JW: What fuels your terrific optimism?
CB: I lost my daughter Carrie 14 years ago to cancer. When she was in the hospital lying in pain, bald from the chemo, one of the nurses stopped me and said,
“I have to talk to you about your daughter. She is such an upper. We go in there in the morning, and if I have a long face, she cheers me up.” So I asked her, “Carrie, how come you’re always so up and cheerful despite all of this?” Carrie said, “Every day I wake up and decide today I’m going to love my life.” The key word is decide. That was her mantra. When I wake up in the morning, I say that to myself. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part, I am one fortunate person and I am gonna love my life to the very end.
—Jeanne Wolf is the Post’s West Coast editor

News of the Week: Expensive Peanuts, Free Tacos, and Spiders You Can Actually Eat

MetLife Nixes Peanuts

I don’t know how the Peanuts gang ended up as the spokespeople (spokescharacters?) for an insurance company 30 years ago, but it’s going to be sad to see them go. MetLife has decided to end their relationship with Charles Schulz’s popular creations, for which they pay over $10 million a year to license. The company is going to be rebranding itself as it spins off its individual life insurance plans in the U.S. in 2017.

In related news, rebranding is one of my least favorite words ever.

Thanks, Francisco Lindor!

Even though the World Series is currently tied at one game apiece, there are already winners, and they are us. Because Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor stole a base in game one on Tuesday night (sorry, Cubs fans), everyone gets a free taco at Taco Bell next Wednesday, November 2, between 2 and 6 p.m.


This promotion was based on stealing just one base in the entire World Series? Taco Bell must really love to give away tacos.

Is Coupon Pronounced “Koopon” or “Q-pon”?

It’s “koopon.” Hey, that was easy!

Well, okay, there’s more to the story. Over at Slate they’re debating whether coupon should be pronounced “koopon” or “Q-pon” (they write it out as “cyoopon,” but that’s just confusing). I hadn’t even heard of the second pronunciation until a friend of mine who travels the country selling coupons told me that he encounters many people who pronounce it “Q-pon” and it drives him crazy. I thought that it might be a regional thing, different areas of the country saying it a different way like we do many other words, but I don’t think that explains it. Coupons.com did a poll five years ago, and 57% of the people said they pronounce it “Q-pon.” I don’t know any of those people.

The writer of the Slate piece says “Q-pon.” His wife says “koopon.” Wars have started over disagreements like this.

I’m So Glad We’re Gonna Spend More Time Together

Carol Burnett as featured on the Post’s September 1976 cover.

One of my favorite childhood memories is watching the Saturday-night lineup on CBS in the ’70s. It’s hard to convince younger people today, when Saturday-night network television is for repeats and movies and maybe some news shows, that the night used to be worth staying in for. All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Carol Burnett Show all aired on one night and on one channel. Pre-VCR, who would want to go out and miss that lineup?

Burnett, who was interviewed for our upcoming January/February issue, is coming back to television. She’ll star in a new ABC sitcom produced by Amy Poehler. It’s about a family who gets to buy a great house really cheap, but on one condition: They have to live with the woman (Carol Burnett) who currently owns the house.

Click Your Heels Together Three Times …

Chris Evans / Wikimedia Commons
Chris Evans / Wikimedia Commons

What happens when an iconic movie prop is decaying and you don’t have the money to repair it? You start a Kickstarter.

That’s what the Smithsonian did. They wanted to restore Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, so they started a crowdsourcing campaign. They ended up raising more than $300,000! They’re also raising money to restore Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow costume from the movie.

They actually made as many as 10 pairs of ruby slippers for the movie. One pair was stolen, and another pair was sold at auction. These Smithsonian shoes are the ones Judy Garland used the most in the movie, especially in the dance sequences.

RIP Kevin Meaney, Bobby Vee, Kevin Curran, Kathryn Adams, and Pete Burns

I can still remember, vividly, Kevin Meaney’s HBO standup special in the ’80s. It was one of the first things I ever watched on cable, and some of his lines really stick in my mind: “That’s not night!” and “We’re big-pants people!” (There’s another line from the special that’s also really memorable, but I can’t repeat it on a family website.)

Meaney passed away last Friday at the age of 60. Many comics have penned tributes to the influential comedian, including Louis C.K.

Bobby Vee, who passed away Monday at 73 will be remembered for the song “Take Good Care of My Baby,” but he had another tie to history. In 1959, at the young age of 15, he filled in at a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, after Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash.

Kevin Curran was a producer and writer for The Simpsons from 1998 to 2015. He was also a producer/writer for Married…with Children, Unhappily Ever After, and The Good Life, and for many years was a writer on Late Night with David Letterman. In fact, he wrote Letterman’s very first Top 10 List, “10 Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas.” He won three Emmys for The Simpsons and three for Late Night.

Curran was just 59 years old. He passed away Tuesday after a long illness.

Kathryn Adams appeared in such movies as The Hunchback of Notre DameSaboteurIf I Had My Way, and The Invisible Woman, but she quit show business in 1946 to focus on her family and her husband, Leave It to Beaver’s Hugh Beaumont. She passed away this week at the age of 96.

You might not remember the name Pete Burns or his band Dead or Alive, but their most famous song has had amazing lasting popularity since its release in 1985. It was even used recently in a commercial for a Candy Crush game.

Burns died of a heart attack at the age of 57.

This Week in History: Black Thursday (October 24, 1929)

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 is usually referred to as “Black Tuesday,” but the events that led to the stock market disaster and the Great Depression actually started on Thursday of the week before. To make things even more confusing, Monday of that week is called “Black Monday.”

This Week in History: Statue of Liberty Dedicated (October 28, 1886)

Saturday Evening Post archive director Jeff Nilsson has a nice piece on our national symbol of freedom, a gift from the people of France.

This Week in History: Dr. Jonas Salk Born (October 28, 1914)

Salk’s injectable polio vaccine was released to the public in 1955. A few years later, medical researcher Albert Sabin came up with the oral version.

Spiders Aren’t as Scary If You Can Eat Them

In the past, I’ve given you various recipes for Halloween, including bat wings, pumpkin muffins, ghostly milk shakes, and fingers from a witch. This year, I thought I’d focus on arthropods.

Here’s a recipe for Spider Chocolate Chips Cookies, and here’s one for Oreo Spider Web Cookie Pizza. This recipe is for Scary Spider Web Eggs, and it’s so odd-looking that it might just freak people out.

I live in New England, born and raised, but I’ve never heard of New England Spider Cake. But apparently it’s a thing, and here’s the recipe. It’s a creamy cornbread you top with maple syrup.

Note: It has nothing to do with spiders.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Halloween (October 31)

Here are some of the great Halloween covers we’ve done over the years. (My favorite is the November 1, 1958, cover by John Falter.)

National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month starts (November 1)

Check out the Alzheimer’s Association website to find out how you can volunteer and find walks in your area.

National Novel Writing Month starts (November 1)

Or NaNoWriMo for short. I’ve never attempted to write a whole novel in a month, but it can be done.