This Christmas, I was given Carol Burnett’s most recent memoir, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. Holding the partially unwrapped book in my hands on Christmas morning, three thoughts zoomed through my mind: 1) I’ve never seen The Carol Burnett Show, 2) Carol Burnett is one of comedy’s greatest icons—I feel like a sham claiming to be a comedy fan without knowing her work, and 3) I love reading books by female comedians; their making it in a primarily male-dominated industry serves as inspiration and proof that women are funny. With these thoughts in mind and without a clue of what to expect, I decided to give the memoir a go. The first page had me hooked. Burnett’s colloquialisms and charming tone are captivating, and her language had me feeling transported to a different time. For instance, she uses words like “picture show” and “movie house,” and fondly recalls growing up in California during the glittering days of antiquated Hollywood, when movie tickets cost just a dime and the likes of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Gene Kelly graced the silver screen. Reading Burnett’s recollections of meeting Jimmy Stewart, befriending Cary Grant, and performing with Lucille Ball had me feeling nostalgic for the early days of movies and television; it seems to have been a truly magical time.
The book is comprised of many three-to-four page vignettes that trace Burnett’s life from her childhood in California to her Broadway success in New York to her celebrated TV program and the relationships, personal and professional, that developed as a result of this show. While at times some of her anecdotes are rather serious in nature—she briefly touches on her two divorces and the death of her eldest daughter—many are hilarious, and more than a few stories had me quite literally laughing out loud.
For instance, in “Keeping Up with Pine Valley While in Europe” Burnett tells of a comical misunderstanding that occurred when a concierge delivered to her a telegram containing the plot developments of the soap opera All My Children. “Julie, Mike Nichols, and the Lady in the Elevator” had me doubled over in stitches: it relays the happenings of a prank pulled by Julie Andrews and Burnett that went hysterically wrong. In “Joan Crawford,” Burnett explains how she accidently became a pen pal, and “A Very Bad Hair Day” features her first encounter with the dangers of self-dying your hair with peroxide. The stories were such fun to read that I finished the 266-page book in one sitting, and left both wanting more and feeling like I’d made a new friend.
The only critique I have of This Time Together is that I wish there were more stories. I would have loved to have read more about Burnett’s life after The Carol Burnett Show. Though she briefly touches on her marriage to Brian Miller and the passing of her daughter, Carrie (both events that happened during the 2000s), I’d be interesting in reading about the years between the show and these other life events.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Burnett’s book, and have since rented the entire DVD set of The Carol Burnett Show. Watching the show has kept me laughing constantly—"Went With the Wind" is one of the funniest sketches I’ve ever seen—and has shown me that the voice, warmth, and excitement with which Carol Burnett writes is the very same energy that she pours into her show. I so recommend this book to any lover of comedy and to anyone who yearns to read about the fabulous early days of television.
Chelsea is a graduate of the DCH Training Center. She is obsessed with music of the 60s & 70s and her vices include vanilla lattes and Swedish Fish. You can check out more of Chelsea’s thoughts and ponderings HERE!