In 2015, everyone is talking about women in comedy and making references to our time being a golden age for female comics. And it is. Amy Schumer has had an incredible year and her star just keeps rising, Melissa McCarthy is brilliant, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler crush everywhere they appear, Kristin Wiig is killing at everything she does, Kate McKinnon has been at the center of some of the best material on SNL, Leslie Jones is about to blow up once the all female Ghostbusters hits the screens, and we have a long list of funny women who we just adore.
But despite hearing that “women aren’t funny” for years, this current ‘golden age’ is just the most recent. You can’t talk about brilliantly funny women without talking about The Carol Burnett Show. Eight years before the Not Ready For Prime Time Players jumped in to the sketch game, Carol Burnett and friends were very ready for prime time. The Carol Burnett show entertained for millions over its 11 year run with Carol at the helm, along with Harvey Korman, Vicky Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner and Tim Conway. Lucille Ball, Don Rickles, Jim Nabors, Phyllis Diller, Steve Lawrence, Bob Newhart, Bernadette Peters, were just a few of the frequent guests. The show won a total of 25 Prime Time Emmy Awards, and consistently ranks high on any list of top television shows of all time. And yet, young comedy fans aren’t as well versed the series as they are in other classic comedies, in part because so many of the greatest episodes of the show haven’t aired in over 40 years.
Forty five original uncut broadcast episodes from the first five seasons are now available for the first time ever through Time Life, and it’s an incredible collection. The Carol Burnet Show: The Lost Episodes shows off the early days of one of the most honored and beloved shows in television history, along with hours of interviews, some old, some new. The show was edgy and subversive at the time, and continues to hold up in 2015.
Some highlights include Episode 006 featuring the first appearances of frequent guest star Lucille Ball, and Tim Conway who later became a series regular. Conway and Ball appeared in multiple sketches including a “Rental Car Agent” sketch that just kills. Episode 503 features Bernadette Peters and Cass Elliot and the infamous “As the Stomach Turns” soap parody.
And our favorite, episode 310 which aired in 1969 featured Lucille Ball and George Carlin. Catch an early glimpse of Carlin (who Carol introduced by saying “he’s a young man and I’m a very big fan of his”) wearing a double breasted jacket, collared shirt and a wild print scarf for a “comedy spot” (basically stand up). This was pre the 1970’s Carlin you’re more familiar and you can see the early beginnings of his more political comedy that he would later become infamous for. Carlin also appears in a sketch with Lucy as “big daddy,” a groovy 60’s disc jockey who “really loves ya.”
There’s also a great “comedy spot” from Joan Rivers in episode 318. Introduced as “one of the funniest ladies I’ve ever met” by Carol, a young Joan Rivers looking adorable in pink delivered a fiery, hilarious set. Later she has a scene stealing role as Miss China in the “Miss Globe” sketch. Miss China performed a priceless stand up set for the talent portion of the Miss Globe pageant.
The entire set is available at lostcarolepisodes.com, available in two versions, a $200 box set, and a personalized VIP version.
To celebrate the release we put together 10 of our favorite clips from The Carol Burnett Show that we could find on YouTube. Enjoy!