Harvey Korman was hand-picked for The Carol Burnett Show
The actor revealed that Burnett had specifically requested him by name for a role on her show.
Picture this: You're one of the most famous people in the world, but nobody knows who you are. It sounds a little like a curse, but for Harvey Korman, it was his reality.
As a veteran of variety shows, Korman is perhaps best known for his time on The Carol Burnett Show, playing a myriad of characters and hilariously excelling at portraying all of them. It could be argued that the true test of an actor is their ability to transform into the character. This is a trait that is considered incredibly important in sketch comedy. In a sitcom, many actors have the comfort of adhering to a single character for a prolonged period of time. In sketch comedy, actors are constantly alternating between characters not just between episodes, but between scenes. However, Harvey Korman thrived in such a hectic environment, and was able to seamlessly blend into each character he was charged with portraying. However, it was his chameleon-like versatility as an actor that might actually have hindered him at times.
Korman once recounted an incident to the Miami-Herald-Copley News Service on The Carol Burnett Show where he was heckled by members of the production crew as he was preparing for a sketch with Carol. One production member called out, "'Who are you?'" and after answering, another production member called out jokingly, "What do you do?"
Korman recounted the incident and expanded that although these remarks were made in jest, it was symbolic of a larger issue Korman found himself dealing with more and more frequently: As his characters became more and more recognizable, the actual Harvey Korman was becoming less and less visible.
He said, "These were studio people heckling me, but I do have trouble with people fitting my name with my face. The main reason for this is because on Carol's show, I'm rarely seen as Harvey Korman." Korman was brave enough to admit that the added confusion wasn't just affecting him at work; It was affecting his personality.
He said, "I don't have any trouble keeping the characters straight, but there are times when I can't remember who Harvey Korman is."
However, there was someone who was able to see the real Harvey Korman, as well as the real talent he was able to offer, and changed his life. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Korman revealed that he was actually hand-picked based on a suggestion by none other than Carol Burnett herself. Harvey recalled how he was signed to The Carol Burnett Show. Apparently, Burnett was in the process of casting for the new show, and her team had auditioned over thirty "Harvey Korman-types," to no avail. Then, it was Burnett who asked the obvious: "'Why in the world are we going through these headaches, why don't we just get the real Harvey Korman?" Korman went on to spend ten incredible seasons on the show.
Harvey also praised Burnett, saying, "She's aware of other people's needs, a rare trait among the big stars." He also remarked that it was Burnett's kindness that made her an anomaly, and said, "Carol is a uniquely talented woman and an incredibly nice person, especially for a star as successful as she is."