Just 24 hours after Kevin Spacey channeled Jimmy Stewart and read a poem to Carol Burnett on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the actress was at The Roxy Hotel on Thursday hobnobbing with movie stars, an opera singer, a former talk show host, a rock star, a drag queen and a Real Housewife.
Comedy legend Burnett was in Tribeca with costume designer Bob Mackie to promote the DVD release of “The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes,” which features rare footage from the first five seasons of her long-running eponymous sketch show. Time Life and The Cinema Society hosted a screening of select segments from the new special collection, followed by a discussion with Burnett and Mackie moderated by style guru Andre Leon Talley.
The comedic genius spoke about why there hasn’t been a successful variety show on television since her show ended in 1978.
“The talent is there,” Burnett said. “Neil Patrick Harris is very talented. (NBC’s “Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris” premiered on Tuesday.) But first of all, I don’t think the networks don’t have much faith in (variety shows), and second, you couldn’t do what we did now because of the cost. We had 60 to 70 costumes a week, 12 dancers, guest stars, on and on and on. It would have to be a different type of a way of doing a variety show now because of the cost. And boy, you have to have good writers!”
As for the variety show’s iconic costumes, Burnett said Mackie helped her bring many of her memorable characters to life.
“There were times during rehearsal when I didn’t know how I was going to do a character until Bob put me in the outfit,” Burnett said.
As for creating attire for the creative dynamo’s enduring and memorable characters, including hilarious Starlet O’Hara and the
adorably inept Eunice, Mackie said he received his inspiration from the writers.
“You read the script and you go from there,” the designer said. “I always wanted to get a laugh if I could and I think we managed that a few times.”
When it came to portraying Eunice and the physically demanding, Nora Desmond, Burnett said it helped her emotionally.
“I’m not a person to confront or to yell but whenever I would do (those characters) I would feel so good (after). Your body doesn’t know when you’re acting, so when you scream as Eunice, afterwards all week my body would feel so calm. So even today, if I get upset, I will go into a room and do the Tarzan yell and feel so much better.”