How Carol Burnett Improved Her Show By Firing Harvey Korman

For over a decade Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman made magic together on the legendary sketch comedy series, "The Carol Burnett Show." Along with other regulars, like Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway, the cast of "The Carol Burnett Show" seemed like a family where everything was about laughter. Nobody could ever imagine the drama behind the scenes.

After all, Carol Burnett lent her singing, hosting, and comedy talents to a show that bore her name. She appeared as herself during her hosting duties and then morphed into any number of memorable characters in movie parodies such as "West With The Wind" and "From Here To Maternity," according to Britannica. The show also gave birth to a spin-off called "Mama's Family," based on The Family Sketch part of "The Carol Burnett Show."

But everything wasn't sunshine and roses every day on set and, early in the series, Burnett fired Korman, who died in 2008. However, fans never saw this firing manifest onscreen.

A surprising spat caused Carol Burnett to make a bold move

In 2016, Carol Burnett released a memoir called "In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox," where she took fans behind the scenes of her life and at "The Carol Burnett Show." One behind-the-scenes moment chronicled an argument with Harvey Korman that resulted in her calling his agent.

"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, according to The "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."

Burnett confronted her co-star in his dressing room and asked him if there was anything wrong. When she was told to just mind her own business, Burnett took offense to that because it was her show, after all.

"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," Burnett recalled in her book. She felt she had no other choice but to call his agent.

How Carol Burnett got Harvey Korman back in line

Carol Burnett told Korman about the phone call and that she couldn't work with him with the attitude he had, The reports. Korman must have realized immediately that he made a big mistake and asked how he could fix it. This is what Burnett said, according to her book: "This coming Monday, I want to see you cheerful. 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. 

She reportedly continued, "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!" Korman did what his boss told him to and listened, which led to years of joy and laughter for the cast of "The Carol Burnett Show" — and for generations of audiences for years to come.

Harvey Korman admitted to being 'scared' in the moment

Clearly, the awkward moment between Carol Burnett and Harvey Gorman left both parties reeling. Although they ultimately worked things out, with viewers none the wiser, in an interview for "Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character," her longtime co-star admitted he was shocked to see that side of Burnett. "I've never, ever seen her angry ... She scared the crap out of me," Korman recalled. 

The sketch comedy star backed up Burnett's version of events, acknowledging how "rude" he'd been and that she'd really let him have it. "She called me into the dressing room after the show and said 'I hear you're not happy on this show.' I suppose sometimes I'm not. She says, 'Well, then why don't you just get off it?' And I said, 'Well, I don't know.'" Burnett told him to either show up happy or move on. 

Korman did exactly that, understanding what a privileged position he was in and letting everybody know he didn't take the job for granted. A plaque was even placed on his dressing room door which read "Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky" just to ensure Korman didn't lose sight of his purpose. Burnett herself confirmed there were no hard feelings, sharing with "Pioneers of Television" that "he loved the fact that we had that moment and he always talked about it." She did clarify, however, that the issue was Korman disrespecting a guest since he was consistently rude to Burnett and it didn't phase her.