If it’s any consolation, even Carol Burnett gets emotional when she hears “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.”
The song that Burnett sang to the end every night The Carol Burnett Show, has become her signature. It’s what plays as her entrance music every time she appears on a talk show. It accompanies bundles of clips every time she’s celebrated in a chic Hollywood tribute. It is personal – for them and for us.
This song’s warbling piano keys and the earnestness of Burnett’s voice as he sings carry with them decades of memories: children watching The Carol Burnett Show with their parents or grandparents; women who watch the series and find inspiration to follow the star’s wild spirit; all the love, loss and relationships embedded in a song that has become so indelible.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Carol Burnett: 90 years of laughter + love ends with a performance of the song; of course it does.
The star-studded TV special, which will air on NBC Wednesday night and stream the next day on Peacock, is a look back at the illustrious career of a national icon. It’s a breathtaking look back at the stunning way her wild talent blazed trails and changed the entire entertainment landscape, fueled by the very people whose careers she credited for.
After Cher, Julie Andrews, Lily Tomlin, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Kristin Chenoweth, Bob Mackie, Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, and Allison Janney — and so many other names — one wonders if Hollywood sets were simply forced to go dark On the day the special was filmed – everyone was giving their heartfelt, hilarious tributes – Katy Perry took the stage to perform “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together”.
Towards the end of the number, Perry comes down from the stage and sits next to Burnett, who sings the last four bars: “…comes the time we have to say, ‘So long’.”
“I kind of choked,” Burnett tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. “I have to say it was such an evening. It was two and a half hours of joy, but also tears. That was the way to end it, I know that.”
You should hear Carol Burnett gush about her birthday party.
As we speak, the special had just been filmed (its Wednesday night airing is timed to coincide with Burnett’s actual 90th birthday). And I’ve found that she would probably object at all to it being called a “birthday party”.
“When they talked about it, I said I don’t want a birthday party,” she says. “I don’t want cake. I don’t want balloons and confetti. I just want it to be a fun show and have lots of music.” The result: a live 19-piece orchestra and a list of talent bookings that would have Oscars producers seething with jealousy.
She begins to list the names of the people who have appeared, her voice becoming increasingly flattered and dizzy with each one. Her description of each act is followed by an awed superlative: “It was just so sweet.” “That was so much fun.” “There was just a lot Oh…” she says and takes a deep breath, “Heart. Lots of heart.”.
Bernadette Peters, Billy Porter and Jane Lynch sang a medley annieShe was joined at the end by Aileen Quinn, the film’s Annie, who performed “Tomorrow.” “There was not a dry eye in the house,” says Burnett. “It was amazing.”
Tomlin spoke about an interaction they had on a sound stage when Tomlin was just starting out To laugh. “You gave me the most confidence in the world,” she tells Burnett. “Carol — it’s Carol, right?” She continues as the audience erupts, “The love we all share with you tonight is a small payback for all the love you’ve shown us over the years. “
Peters and Chenoweth sang a tribute to the TV specials that Burnett directed with opera singer Beverly Sills and, of course, her good friend Julie Andrews. Andrews – “my mate,” as Burnett calls her – sat next to Burnett all evening, flying in from New York for the occasion. “I can’t believe it’s been 62 years, if not more, since we first met, mate,” Andrews tells her in the special. “We went from landlines to cell phones to texting and, oh, we laughed as we went.”
“It was just wonderful,” says Burnett, still sounding overwhelmed. “I had a little bit of tears in my eyes.”
Dressed in a gold shimmering dress and an ornate round headpiece, Cher shared a story of how and when The Sonny and Cher Show began, Bob Mackie realized that she and Burnett were the same size and borrowed clothes from Burnett’s closet to dress Cher. Later, when Cher started her own business, Burnett was a close confidant. “She’s the kind of woman, the kind of star who will never be disappointed when you meet her,” Cher says in the special.
One of the things that impressed Burnett the most was the attention that was given to her entire career – her entire life, in fact. There were clips from her Broadway debut in Once upon a time there was a mattressfrom their first star appearances The Garry Moore Showand even one of hers in 1956 on the variety series, omnibusperforming a song by Leonard Bernstein.
Of course, a lot of time was spent on it The Carol Burnett Show, including a touching tribute from surviving cast member Vicki Lawrence. Marisa Tomei came onstage disguised as Burnett’s incompetent office secretary, Mrs. Wiggins, and then interviewed Mackie about everything The Carol Burnett Show‘s most iconic costumes – and ends with a surprise appearance by Maya Rudolph in the legendary Went with the wind curtain rod dress.
Burnett was particularly touched by the Cher-introduced section of the show’s history of legendary duets with big-name musicians and stars.
“I remember going to the movies with my grandmother when I was little,” she says. “We saved our money.” A decade or two later, and the celebs they’d flattered and gossiped about together — Bing Crosby, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Rooney — were appearing as guests on their own show on.
“My favorite actor of all time, Jimmy Stewart, surprised me at our last show,” she continues. “I only wish my grandmother could have witnessed all of this because it was a dream come true. We went to the movies and I came home and played it with my best friend in the neighborhood. We would do Tarzan and Jane, and we would do Betty Grable and June Haver — all of that. And then to have a show where I could be these people in costume and have music and lighting…let me put it this way, me think i’m one of the happiest women in the world. I just had so much fun.”
It’s an overwhelming experience to hear from some of the most famous people working today how much you mean to them – some strangers, some close friends. But the truth is, people have been saying those things to Burnett for decades. But does a night like this beat any different? Is Burnett able to see the ways in which her work in the industry has impacted the way those people who rave about her on stage perform?
“Maybe,” she says, and laughs. “What I always say – and I tell them – is, ‘If I had never been born, they would do what they do. So yeah, if I helped a little bit, I’m happy. But the effect is not so necessary, because talent will prevail. Whether I was there or not, they would do what they do.”
However, she does answer one last question: as she sits on such occasions and looks back over her entire career, is there anything she is most proud of?
“It would have to be the variety show that ran for 11 years when CBS wasn’t interested in it at first,” she says. “They had to because I was under contract to do 30 shows, so they had to put me on the air. I had no idea we would be running so long.”
She remembers the first taping with original co-stars Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Lawrence. “I just said, ‘You know what? We have 30 shows that we’re going to do and we don’t know what the future will be like. So let’s just go out and have fun.’ And we did. Instead of 30 shows we ran for 270 or so. They actually wanted a 12th year specialization, but I decided we should go before we were asked to go.
That’s always a good idea, I suggest. “Yeah, before they start turning the lights on and off, we should get out of there.” With that, we say goodbye — and of course, that we’re so glad we had this time together.
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