The Everett Collection

Harvey Korman wanted to stay relevant for as long as he could

Harvey Korman gave viewers something to laugh about each week on The Carol Burnett Show. Korman played various characters during the show's successful 11-season run. 

With its sets, costumes, sketches and custom-made musical numbers... The Carol Burnett Show was basically like building a Broadway show each week.

Korman's performance on the series landed him six Emmy nominations and four Emmy wins. With all of his success, you'd think Korman had show business all figured out. However, according to a 1969 interview with Sioux City Journal, Korman said being an actor was hard to do.

Korman had hoped to stay in the "middle part" of an actor's life. This meant he wanted to stay relevant and in high demand for as long as Hollywood would let him.

"You know the old joke about an actor's life," he said. "First directors say 'Who's Harvey Korman?' Then they advance to 'Get me Harvey Korman' and 'Get me a Harvey Korman type' before going back to 'Who's Harvey Korman?' Right now they're saying 'Get me Harvey Korman' and I hope things stay that way for a while."

Before landing his role on The Carol Burnett Show, Korman said he thought he was in the last stage of an actor's life cycle. This stage, according to Korman, was where all directors say: 'Who's Harvey Korman?' 

After 83 episodes of The Danny Kaye Show, he felt like he was at a dead end in his career. He worked to find a new role, with the added pressure of supporting his family.

Luckily, Carol Burnett was looking for a "Harvey Korman type."

"I had a family to support and I had to go somewhere else. I wondered how I'd go," he said. 

At the time of this interview, Korman said he wanted to be on a series as a regular, and after 245 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show... Korman finally had that role he wanted.

"They've all been kind of fun," Korman said about his co-stars on The Carol Burnett Show. "But Carol is kind of special. She's really a very special woman; the kind of sensitive, warm, easy-going woman you see on television is the same person we see off stage. I could talk for hours about her. Working with Carol, you kind of look forward going to work."

Although Korman was one of TV's top comedians, he didn't start his career in comedy. With a background in theater, Korman's original plan was to be an actor in a drama series. Korman said there was a tremendous need for comedians in '60s and '70s television.

"I think I'm the kind of guy that audiences can take," he said. "Comedy isn't easy; saying funny things is one thing but being a funny person onstage is another. It's a gift and it has to be worked on and polished."

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