Vicki Lawrence credits this famous blooper as ''unleashing the monster'' of Mama's character

"I don't know if they were relieved that Vicki had finally cut loose!"

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What's the best Carol Burnett Show sketch? That's not a question with an easy answer, even for the biggest fans of the show. Some will point to "The Dentist", where Tim Conway famously made Harvey Korman wet himself from laughter as Conway flailed around as an inept dentist who kept accidentally numbing parts of his body. Others will say "Went with the Wind!", the Gone With The Wind parody where Carol donned her now-iconic curtain dress. 

There's no shortage of great Carol Burnett sketches. But a lot of people would say that their favorite sketch was one that didn't air at all — "The Elephant Story" blooper. The clip has over 38 million views on YouTube. Conway, who would deliberately go off-script to try and make Harvey Korman break, plays an employee of Mama's son-in-law. The family is trying to play Password, when Conway goes on a long, rambling (and different each time) story about an elephant at a circus.

Conway already has most of the cast, including Carol Burnett, cracking up, but Vicki Lawrence delivers the final punch. Without breaking character, Lawrence says "Are you sure that little [expletive]'s through?" which sends both Conway and Dick Van Dyke rolling on the floor with laughter.

"When I was young... I didn't feel like I'd earned the privilege [to break character]," Lawrence said in an interview with The Archive of American Television. "I didn't feel like it was my place. I was still learning! It took me well into that run to embrace the 'go ahead and have fun with it' concept."

"The Elephant Sketch" changed things. "It was really the first time that Mama spoke out, I believe. And it unleashed a monster."

That fateful day, Lawrence was in her dressing room for the break between dress rehearsal and the show. The director would often drop by during this time to give notes. That day, he told Lawrence "I have just one note. The Elephant Story will be different, and good luck."

Lawrence complained to her makeup artist, "How does Tim get away with this stuff?". Her makeup artist simply replied, "Get 'em."

Then the fateful taping happened, and Tim Conway soon had everyone crying with laughter. Lawrence took the note from the director and the advice from her makeup artist and finally snapped back at Conway in the now-famous line.

"The cameras were jiggling and everybody was just... I don't know if they were relieved that Vicki had finally cut loose!"

As the millions of people who love that sketch can attest, we're all glad that Vicki cut loose! Oh, and the makeup artist who advised her to fire back at Conway? Al Schultz, who Lawrence has been married to since 1974.

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20 Comments

Deleted 16 months ago
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16 months ago
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JoeCopenhaver 16 months ago
All of the shows were so entertaining. All of the guest stars and cast members brought all of us so much joy in watching each week - and in the reruns over the years. A little blooper here and there made it so much better, in seeing Harvey break character - or others flub a line but keep going. In the end of each episode, the guest star(s) would sign Carol's book - I wonder where that book(s) went? They would be so exciting to see preproduced and available to buy. She has a GREAT collection of autographs!
cperrynaples JoeCopenhaver 16 months ago
I have Carol's book about the making of TCBS! I believe she still has it! Carol started collecting autographs as a child!
Nala92129 16 months ago
One of my favorite episodes was with Jerry Reed, playing "Leonard Oates," Naomi's ex-husband. Hilarious!
Zip Nala92129 16 months ago
Mine too!
Then again, most Mama's Family episodes are my favorite."
CoreyC 16 months ago
cperrynaples CoreyC 16 months ago
That was the last season since Dick Van Dyke was in this episode! Fun Fact: Carol got her revenge by telling her own elephant story in another sketch with Tim!
CoreyC cperrynaples 16 months ago
Harvey Korman left The Carol Burnett Show.
cperrynaples CoreyC 16 months ago
YEP, he signed a deal with ABC for his own sitcom! Ironically, it featured Dick's son Barry!
StrayCat 16 months ago
Lots of timeless sketches and it's difficult to try to rate one over another, but in my mind the best Carol Burnett Show sketch was a kind of series within a series: "As the Stomach Turns". I think there were something like 18 or 20 of those episodes.
Beta6 StrayCat 7 months ago
I LOVED As the Stomach Turns!!!
Andybandit 16 months ago
MF is so funny. From Thelma's remarks, to the clothes the characters wear on the show.
cperrynaples 16 months ago
When I read the headline, I knew you were going to go to the Siamese elephants! That's the most famous mistake of TCBS! Coming in a close second is when the cow did her "duty" while Carol was singing!
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cperrynaples Coldnorth 16 months ago
Yea, well you know we're not allowed to talk about those functions on this board! This AIN'T Twitter and i'm so glad it's not...LOL!
cperrynaples Coldnorth 16 months ago
PS Can anyone find Carol and the cow? I couldn't find it on You Tube!
Coldnorth cperrynaples 16 months ago
Lol I’m happy the way this is board set up. I am kind of old fashioned, no twitter, gram or. Fb. I will try to find the cow and Carol. Sounds like a hoot.
LeeWithers cperrynaples 16 months ago
It wasn't a cow. It was a horse. (At 7:04 into this video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ejhn16Q3vE
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