Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball were great friends. Their relationship seemed so appropriate. They both were redheads. They were both funny, sweet and endearing.
And mostly, they made everyone around them so very happy. After all, a smile is priceless.
Lucille Ball also helped mentor Carol Burnett. You could say Ball played a huge part in making Burnett a star, although Burnett’s comedic charm eventually would’ve found a way onto television without Ball’s push.
So, here’s how they became friends.
Carol Burnett was 25 years old when she started her Off Broadway play, “Once Upon a Mattress.” And on the play’s second night, a wide-eyed Burnett peaked through the curtains and saw Lucille Ball sitting in the audience. Ball already was a star. She was two years removed from her series “I Love Lucy.”
“I was more nervous seeing her than I was opening night,” Burnett said.
Lucille Ball was so taken with the play, she came backstage after it ended to chat. That’s when she met Carol Burnett. And Burnett recalled the story of their meeting at the 2016 SAG Awards.
“She called me ‘kid’ because she was 22 years older than I,” Burnett said. “Just as she was leaving, she said, ‘Kid, if you ever need me for anything, give me a call.”
Eventually, ‘Kid’ Carol Burnett Called Lucy For a Favor
Carol Burnett did call her. Eventually. If you have the Lucille Ball card in your purse, you don’t play it lightly or without thought. CBS executives approached Burnett about doing a variety special. But they’d allow Burnett to do it only if she promised a huge star. This was back in the mid-1960s. Women didn’t get deals like this.
So Carol Burnett called Lucille Ball. You probably guessed by now Lucy said yes to the “Kid.”
The show was called “Carol + 2.” It premiered March 22, 1966. CBS gave the green light for Burnett’s weekly variety show the next year. Lucille Ball was there for her young friend. She made four appearances in the first four years. And Carol Burnett returned the support. She also appeared in Lucille Ball’s two sit-coms The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy.
The two became so close that Lucille Ball threw Burnett a baby shower. It was a fancy, black-tie affair. Men were invited, too.
Burnett recalled: “It was one of the funniest evenings ever. And her husband then was comedian Gary Morton, and he opened all the baby gifts and did routines on everything. It was just hysterical.”
Throughout the years, the two legendary comedians stayed close. Burnett’s show went off the air in 1978. It won 23 Emmys throughout its run.
The ever-thoughtful Lucille Ball always sent Carol Burnett flowers on her birthday, April 26.
That didn’t change on April 26, 1989, Burnett’s 56th birthday. Lucille Ball, who’d been in a Los Angeles hospital for eight days following heart surgery, died early that morning. She suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Still, the flowers, which already had been ordered, came to Burnett’s home that afternoon.
The card said: “Happy Birthday, kid.”