Carol Burnett, born in 1933 in San Antonio, Texas, has been a long-time queen of TV revue comedy and enormously popular comedienne and actor. When Carol was very young, she lived with her alcoholic parents for only a few years before she was moved to the care of her grandmother "Nanny". They lived in a not-too-nice Hollywood neighborhood on welfare.
In 1954 after a short stint in college, she moved to New York to pursue acting, with the help of a benefactor who gave her $1,000 on the condition that she help others if she ever became a success.
Burnett had a rags-to-riches route to fame. She worked as a hatcheck girl until she landed her first TV role in 1955 on "The Winchell- Mahoney Show," a kids' program. In 1957, she began appearing in various Manhattan cabarets and nightclubs. Her parents died while Burnett was still in her 20s, and she took on the responsibility of raising her half-sister Christy.
In 1959 Burnett starred in the Broadway hit musical "Once Upon a Mattress". She also got a regular spot on "The Garry Moore Show," a variety show that won her an Emmy in 1962. That brought her together with producer Joe Hamilton, whom she married in 1963 (her second marriage); the couple eventually had three daughters.
In 1967, CBS gave Burnett her own program, a weekly prime-time variety hour. "The Carol Burnett Show" went on to become one of the best-loved shows on television, running for 11 years and earning 22 Emmys.
Burnett also had some big-screen appearances including moving performances in melodramas ("Pete 'n Tillie" 1972) and after her TV show ended, serious comedies ("The Four Seasons" 1981 and "Annie" 1982).
In 1984, Burnett and Hamilton broke up. Eleven years later, she returned to Broadway after a long hiatus, earning a Tony Award nomination for her role in the comedy "Moon Over Buffalo." Beginning in 1996, she also appeared for three years on the hit series "Mad About You," playing the mother of Helen Hunt, which earned her yet another Emmy in 1997 for Best Guest Actress.
Burnett's inspiring rise from poverty and her heart-warming, bone-tickling performances have endeared her to millions. Her astonishingly versatile, award-laden over-forty-year career proves her enduring appeal.