Harvey Korman: A tall career in TV and film

HarveykormanHarvey Korman was one of those performers who exuded funny with every fiber of his being.

Funny and tall — that always stood out (up) when I saw him in person. The few times I had the chance to chat with Korman, who died Thursday at 81, he was always in character, or maybe his character was just who he was. Either way, it was always a pleasure. He was friendly and easily approached.

At one cocktail party on the roof of the Paley Center for Media, I distinctly remember Korman and Tim Conway holding court in one corner, doing an impromptu bit of business (a little bluer than they were allowed on air in the “Carol Burnett Show” days), to the delight of partygoers. I believe it when “Carol Burnett Show” alumni gush about how they became a close-knit family. Korman and Conway were in the audience last October for a Q&A I did with Burnett for a promo screening of her “American Masters” special at the Paley Center. They weren’t on the panel, just there to show support for their leading lady.

Korman’s wild physical comedy translated very well to the big screen, as fans of “Blazing Saddles,” “High Anxiety” and “History of the World, Part 1” can attest. But even more than Hedley Lamaar, I’ll remember him best in movies as the drug-addled sitcom star Monty Rushmore in “Americathon.” That 1979 pic, a comedic look at the future (1998) where the country is so desperate that it mounts a telethon (hosted by Rushmore) to raise cash, was a B.O. bomb in its day and mostly savaged by critics. But it makes me laugh, thanks largely to Korman, and I’m not ashamed to say so.

R.I.P., Harvey Korman.

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