Vicki Lawrence once said that she learned most everything she knew about performing comedy from Harvey Korman
As a teenager, Vicki Lawrence went from high school to The Carol Burnett Show, which meant that although she had a great deal of natural talent, she quickly found herself in leagues with a cast of comedians, some of whom had years of experience. An incredibly daunting task, Lawrence recalled her beginnings at The Carol Burnett Show in her autobiography, Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball.
Lawrence wrote of her first time shooting what would become the famous "Carol and Sis" sketch. She said, "The very first one I ever did, I had to come into the kitchen holding my books in my arms." Lawrence remembered that before she could finish her first take, Danny Simon, the show's sketch director at the time, cut her off. Simon proclaimed, "Jesus, we got a lot of work to do here!" referencing her performance, and began taking Lawrence aside during lunch hours to help make her performance feel a bit more natural. Lawrence said, "It took years to become unselfconscious, ungawky, and ungeeky on stage. Fortunately for me, because the show was an immediate hit, I got that time."
For a performer as talented as Vicki Lawrence, it can be difficult today to imagine her as anything but comfortable on screen. But at the beginning of her time at The Carol Burnett Show, discomfort was not an unusual feeling. She wrote, "Every time I was on, I'd look out at the audience, at all the cameras in the studio, I'd see Carol and Harvey Korman and I'd say to myself, what the hell am I doing here? It was the weirdest sensation to have literally been plucked out of my life and into this place I'd never dreamed of being."
Still, Lawrence worked hard and, luckily for her, had a group of comedy greats that she was able to learn at the feet of. She wrote, "It was Harvey that I learned most everything I know about how to perform comedy. Once he was there was an inkling of potential, he worked long and hard teaching me dialects, mannerisms, timing, and character developed." She continued, "Without any question, Carol was the one who gave me the first leg up. It was Harvey, though, who taught me how to ride."
Lawrence also praised Korman, and wrote that he was one of the best sketch comedians, and added, "especially when it comes to developing characters. One thing I always admired about him was that he would never say, 'This sketch stinks, I hate this, I can't do this.' Instead, he would say, 'Let's make this work,' and refuse to give in until the writers would throw up their arms, surrender, and say, 'That's it, time out, we're cutting it, it's over.'"
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