It’s been over forty years since “The Carol Burnett Show” went off the air, but it still brings joy to millions of fans to this day. What many fans may not know about the show, however, is that Carol Burnett actually fired the beloved Harvey Korman during season seven, and she had one surprising reason for doing so.
Before we get into all of that, check out one the most beloved and funniest sketches Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman did together on the show.
Of course, in this particular episode, “The Family (Sorry)”, some would argue that Vicki Lawrence’s hilariously gruff “Mama” steals the show!
Man do I miss this kind of comedy! But back to the matter at hand – why could Burnett ever fire Korman?
Carol Burnett Recounts Heated Confrontation With Harvey Korman
“The Carol Burnett Show” was on from 1967 to 1978. While it was known for being a zany sketch comedy show, there was drama behind the scenes as there is on any television program.
In her 2016 memoir “In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox,” Burnett recalled a heated altercation that she had with Korman in season seven that resulted in her firing him.
“Our guests that week were Tim (Conway), who had not yet joined the cast as a regular, and Petula Clark, two of the nicest people in showbiz,” Burnett wrote. “Something was wrong with Harvey. Now, at times he could get into a mood. He was in an Elvis getup this particular morning and this was one of those times. … He was scowling at everybody, and at one point he was actually rude to Tim and Petula.”
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When Burnett went to Korman’s dressing room to see what the matter with him was, he told her to mind her own business.
This did not sit well with Burnett, who reminded Korman that any issues between the stars and guest stars of her show actually was “her business.”
Instead of relenting, however, Korman decided to double down by arguing with Burnett even more.
“He told me I couldn’t dictate how he should feel or act, and that he’d just as soon go home and never come back after tonight’s show,” Burnett recalled. “He walked me backwards out into the hall, and he closed the door on me. I didn’t know what to do, I was stunned. … It is not in my makeup to be confrontational, but I knew this situation called for it and I was going to have to step up.”
Carol Burnett Fires Harvey Korman
Burnett left the room and immediately phoned Korman’s agent, telling him that his client would no longer be working on “The Carol Burnett’s Show” after that night’s episode.
She then headed back to Korman’s dressing room to give him the news.
“Well, you got your wish,” Burnett said to Korman. “I called your agent, and he’s aware of the situation. … You were rude to our guests, and because of your behavior I was screwing up all over the place tonight during the show. I can’t work like that, so if you want off, you’re free to go.”
When Burnett turned to leave, Korman stopped her and finally asked if there was anything he could do to make things right.
“This coming Monday, I want to see you cheerful,” Burnett told him. “Not only Monday, but the whole week! And you are never, ever to be nasty to one of our guests or anyone on our crew. We all have moods, but we don’t bring them to work. … In fact, it would tickle me pink to see you skipping around and hear you whistling in the hall!”
Burnett and Korman made the deal and shook hands. But when the next Monday rolled around, she had no idea if he would follow through.
It didn’t take long for her to discover that her partner in comedic genius was totally on board.
Related: Watch Carol Burnett And Imogene Coca Get Into A Cat Fight As Harvey Korman Watches
Reunited And It Feels So Good
“The elevator doors opened and there stood Harvey,” Burnett remembered. “For a split second, neither of us knew what to do. Then he gave me a great big smile and took off, skipping, dancing, and whistling down the hall to my office. I doubled over with laughter.”
Burnett later learned that Korman actually respected how tough she was on him.
“Later, I heard from some of the crew that Harvey had gone across the street to the local watering hole after our little discussion that night,” Burnett wrote. “This was a place where many in the crew went for a drink or three after the show. They said he stood on top of the bar and gleefully told everyone what had happened. Then he lifted his glass and toasted me!“