One of the truly great comedians of the 1960s and 70s has left us. Harvey Korman, longtime regular on The Carol Burnett Show, died yesterday at UCLA Medical Center, as a result of complications related to the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was 81.
Not only did Korman delight with his portrayal of zany and somewhat neurotic characters on Burnett’s TV show, but he entertained in movies as well, particularly in Mel Brooks‘ Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety and History of the World: Part I.
In Saddles, he played political operator Hedley Lamarr, often mistaken for the Hollywood star with a similar name. Some believe his finest work was in High Anxiety where he played the submissive lover to Cloris Leachman‘s dominant Nurse Diesel.
And who could forget his drag portrayal of an alien Julia Child in The Star Wars Holiday Special? In that groan-fest, he played, as on the Burnett show, a variety of characters and put his all into each one of them, even if the show’s writers hadn’t put much thought into the story.
Korman won four Emmy Awards for his performances on Burnett’s show as well as one Golden Globe.
He will be missed, but he leaves behind a legacy of laughter, having contributed to one of the most successful TV variety shows and to some of the funniest movies of the 1970s and early 1980s. Really quite an achievement.
For our darker hours, we can always turn to DVDs featuring his performances to lighten the mood.