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A primer on asking Carol Burnett questions at Cobb Energy, 10/24-10/25

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Friday, September 30, 2016

The word icon gets thrown around a lot, rather carelessly at times. But 83-year-old comic legend Carol Burnett rightfully fits the term.

From 1967 to 1978, she brought a broad, accessible comic sensibility to CBS on "The Carol Burnett Show." In recent years, she has been flying around North America and coming to theaters to take questions from fans, young and old.

She stops by the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre October 24 and 25. Tickets can be had at, prices ranging from $55 to $175 each.

I spoke with her for 45 minutes in July and she was nothing if not kind, accessible and packed with anecdotes. We talked about Tim Conway messing with Harvey Korman, her infamous "Gone With the Wind" parody, her favorite Netflix shows and why she chose not to do stand-up comedy.

Read my full interview with Burnett here on our paid site. (And if you aren't a paying customer, you can view a few free articles a month so have at it!)

After my interview, this news broke about her possibly coming back to TV on ABC

On the free site here, I will say she really wants original questions from the audience. She even shows a video as the show begins providing examples of especially good inquiries to inspire fans' imaginations. She is great at improvisation. She wants to be tested!

One of her favorite all-time questions came from a woman in the balcony from a show in Texas about eight years ago. She asked: “‘If you could be a member of the opposite sex for 24 hours and pop back to be yourself, who would you be and what would you do?”

“I said a prayer to myself,” Burnett said. ” ‘I’m going to open my mouth. Whatever comes out, it’ll be your fault, Lord.’ I didn’t know I’d say this but what came out was, “I’d be Osama bin Laden and kill myself.’ ‘Thank you lord. The audience went nuts!’ ”

In my interview, I was guilty of asking her a few obvious questions, but I had the time to ask her at least 20 questions so it all evened out in the wash. If you're an audience member at one of her concerts, you will be lucky to get one. So make it memorable. Here are some bits of advice:

  • Please don't ask for a picture with her. That is not a question and does nothing for the rest of the crowd.
  • Please don't spend five minutes burbling her how great she is and then recount your own favorite sketches unless you have a compelling reason. The bar would have to be set high. For instance, if  you came out of a coma in 1975 after hearing one of her sketches, that's worth telling. Even then, keep it short. The audience wants to hear from her, not you.
  • An exception to the above: if  you were born after 1978 and discovered her on YouTube or DVD sets, she'll be tickled pink to see you express your admiration for her. She told me how happy she was when a nine year old asked a question once.
  • Don't use your mic time to tout your business. That's just boorish.
  • Please don't ask what her inspirations were or what advice she'd give to an aspiring comic. Every celebrity on a stage gets those boring questions and they usually inspire boring answers.
  • She is clearly up on current events and comics so feel free to ask her about Amy Schumer or Louis C.K. or Tina Fey. (She loves Tina Fey!). And if you reference Kevin Spacey, she'll tell you why she loves him so much.
  • Do ask about specific sketches, guest stars or castmates. She seems to have a crystal clear memory of all 11 seasons and does not appear to be a wee bit tired talking about them. And she still remains close friends with Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway. (Sadly, Kormen passed away in 2008.)
  • I didn't ask her about politics. Go for it if you dare.IN CONCERT“Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection Where the Audience Asks Questions’8 p.m. Monday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 25$55 to $175 before fees

    Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

    2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.