Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, May 14, 2001

Burnett’s wit, style
keep laughs flying

By John Berger

A 90-minute show has rarely seemed to fly more quickly or in finer style than this past Saturday night when Carol Burnett took the stage at the Hawaii Theatre.

Burnett entertained in the riskiest of all formats. For most of the show, she let the audience ask questions from the general "What do you do for entertainment when you're not entertaining us?" (she enjoys crossword puzzles) to the very specific, about sketches on "The Carol Burnett Show."

Several fans simply wanted to say, "Thanks for the memories," while others seemed to possess encyclopedic knowledge about the comedian, recalling her work with Garry Moore in "Once Upon a Mattress" on Broadway, and even a show from when she attended UCLA in the early '50s.

Burnett primed the crowd by running clips of audience questions from her variety show. They showed one clueless person asking, "Is this a repeat show?" Another told her earnestly, "You're my biggest fan."

Watching the old TV audience broke the ice for sure, but this crowd didn't need much encouragement. Many were obviously longtime fans. She answered a question about the "Gone With the Wind" sketch, complied with requests that she do her Tarzan yell, and sang "Feelings" the way Eunice did on the "Gong Show" sketch.

Tarzan yell? Eunice? No prior knowledge of Burnett's work was necessary. Her timing was impeccable.

So was her handling of some of the odder, spacier comments.

Burnett was razor sharp with her one-liners. Asked by one woman why she wasn't "spreading out" like most middle-aged woman do, Burnett told her, "I'm past middle age!"

She was also gracious and receptive fielding questions she must have been asked dozens of times: "Aside from your amazing talent, to what do you attribute your success?" (Luck, and being naive enough to believe she could do it.)

Burnett also explained why she tugged on her ear at the end of each show. (It was her way of saying hello to her beloved grandmother.)

One woman wanted to know, "If gravity catches up with you, will you come back to Hawaii?" Another wanted to hug her. A third wanted to sing the old TV show's closing number with her.

Another set of clips showed Burnett with an incredible cavalcade of guests such as Bing Crosby, Steve Martin, Cher, Rita Hayworth, Ray Charles, Lucille Ball, Ella Fitzgerald, and Karen and Richard Carpenter.

There was also a classic sketch in which Tim Conway plays a bumbling dentist and Harvey Korman tries to keep from breaking up on camera.

The audience got an unexpected bonus when Burnett invited Honolulu resident Jim Nabors to join her.

Nabors recalled when he and Burnett tried to surprise some TV executives by exchanging clothes in an elevator but reached their floor before they'd finished.

And there was more. One man showed her a photo of the two of them, taken in May 1971. Another asked her to autograph a painting. And yes, she would like to do a Christmas show with Jim at the Hawaii Theatre this year!

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