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Carol Burnett on breaking comedy’s glass ceiling

Updated

The Carol Burnett Show almost never was.

On Friday’s Morning Joe, actress Carol Burnett explained that her big break—scoring her own variety show—was actually thanks to a smart agent and a forgotten contract clause.

“I had a clause in the contract with CBS that they’d totally forgotten. I’d signed a ten-year contract and they put a clause in, which was never before and I’m sure never again, where within the first five years of the contract, if I wanted to do an hour-long variety show, they would have to put it on for 30 shows, pay or play,” Burnett said. “So in the last part of the fifth year, the last week, I called and said ‘you know, I think I want to do that variety show.’ And they said ‘what?!’ They’d totally forgotten.”

CBS wasn’t too keen on honoring the contract clause, either.

“They tried to talk me out of it. They said, you know, Carol, it’s a man’s game. It’s Dean Martin. It’s Gleason. It’s Milburn. And all of these guys! There had never been a woman doing a comedy variety and they had to put it on air or it never would have happened.”

Burnett also spoke emotionally on her beloved daughter, Carrie, who died at 38 after battling cancer. Her latest book, Carrie and Me, was released on Tuesday.

“Even in the hospital, one afternoon, I was there to go see Carrie, and a nurse came up to me, and she said ‘I have to tell you something about your daughter.’ And I said yes. She said, she cheers us up! She said I asked Carrie, how come she’s always so cheerful and her reply was, ‘every morning I wake up and decide’—and this is a key word, decide—’every morning I wake up and decide today I’m going to love my life.’ And that’s who she was.”

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Carol Burnett on breaking comedy’s glass ceiling

Updated