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In Memoriam Harvey Korman

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 11:56 am - May 30, 2008.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

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 BrooksBlazing 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.

UPDATE: For a taste of Harvey Korman’s talent, check out the Dentist Sketch (Via Peter Robinson @ the Corner). Jonah Goldberg links a YouTube selection of his work.



  1. My fondest memories of Harvey Korman were in the “Mama’s Family” sketches, where he and Carol and Vicki would just outdo each other in zaniness. Also, his pairing with Tim Conway was just comic genius.

    RIP, Harvey. Keep ’em laughing up there…

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — May 30, 2008 @ 12:02 pm - May 30, 2008

  2. He truly was one of the finest comedians ever. When I used to watch the Carol Burnett Show he’d have me laughing so hard my side would literally hurt. Funny man…

    Comment by John — May 30, 2008 @ 12:59 pm - May 30, 2008

  3. I’d never seen the Star Wars Holiday Special before. It must be seen to be believed…

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — May 30, 2008 @ 1:18 pm - May 30, 2008

  4. When Carol and Harvey would start to laugh out of character it would be so funny.. those are some of the funniest memories of my youngest years.

    Comment by Vince P — May 30, 2008 @ 1:19 pm - May 30, 2008

  5. Nice tribute. He was brilliantly funny and will be missed. He and Tim Conway are probably my favorite comedy team ever. And you’re right, no one can forget him in the Star Wars Holiday Special…and beleive me, I’ve tried almost everything possible to forget I ever saw it.

    Comment by Lynda — May 30, 2008 @ 1:25 pm - May 30, 2008

  6. His comedic chemistry with Tim Conway was classic. I have so many fond memories of him on the Carol Burnett Show, and I will miss him.

    (I really wish they would release the entire show on DVD to let me relive those moments!)

    Comment by NaturallyGay — May 30, 2008 @ 1:53 pm - May 30, 2008

  7. I’d never seen the Star Wars Holiday Special before. It must be seen to be believed…

    I demand those 5 minutes of my life back! Ugh. Leah singing was bad enough, but Bea Arthur singing and dancing??? God help us all. Well at least I can honestly say that I’ve seen something far worse than Episode I.

    Btw, you might like this one:

    Comment by John — May 30, 2008 @ 1:53 pm - May 30, 2008

  8. Here is one of the funniest outtakes ever from the Carol Burnett Show, featuring Harvey and Carol doing a fish commercial. They actually had to do it 5 times. Click here to view.

    Harvey’s laugh was the best. I will surely miss him.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — May 30, 2008 @ 2:07 pm - May 30, 2008

  9. There is only one way to truly experience the Star Wars Holiday Special: by watching the rifftrax version. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy of MST3K give the entire thing (including the commercials) the appropriate treatment.

    My wife has still banned me from re-playing it in her presence, however.

    Comment by Obi-Wandreas — May 30, 2008 @ 2:30 pm - May 30, 2008

  10. And don’t forget , Korman was also the voice of Fred and Barney’s alien benefactor, The Great Gazoo, on The Flintstones.


    Comment by Draybee — May 30, 2008 @ 3:47 pm - May 30, 2008

  11. During the years “The Carol Burnett Show” was on the air we had an iron clad rule in our home: all activities had to be scheduled around that hour. I love to laugh; not giggle or chuckle but laugh, putting my whole body into it. I find laughing to be healthy and absolutely the best safety valve for releasing frustrations and worries of the day. And there were none better than Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett and Tim Conway (and Lyle, whose last name I forget) for making me laugh.

    We all remember the “Gone With the Wind” skit they did. Harvey was playing Rhett Butler and waiting at the foot of a grand staircase for Scarlett O’Hara to appear. I never knew whether Carol surprised Harvey by wearing a set of drapes as her “gown” but he absolutely busted up and had trouble finishing the skit. Everytime I see that scene on television I get to laughing so hard I actually slide out of my easy chair and lie on the floor. And I thank God for putting Harvey Korman and me on earth at the same time so I could enjoy his fantastic talent for so many years.

    One of the biggest regrets I have about getting old (I just turned 67) is that every year I have to say goodbye to comedians, vocalists, actors and actresses who can never really be replaced. Harvey Korman was definitely one of them, but at least my grandchildren will have reruns of his memorable times on television.

    Comment by Trace Phelps — May 30, 2008 @ 4:09 pm - May 30, 2008

  12. Dearest Harvey,

    To quote Arnie Grape:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Comment by Julie the Jarhead — May 30, 2008 @ 4:34 pm - May 30, 2008

  13. The Carol Burnett Show – there was some corny material on that show but it was sure fun to watch. Never missed it. T

    I’m not sure which of Korman’s movie roles I liked best. Hedley Lamarr or Dr. Montague (remember the vampire scene and anything with Nurse Diesel).

    RIP, Mr. Korman.

    Comment by Robert — May 30, 2008 @ 8:19 pm - May 30, 2008

  14. “Where’s Froggy! Ribbit-ribbit!”

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — May 31, 2008 @ 3:27 am - May 31, 2008

  15. OMG, I remember that Star Wars special. I also remember, even though I was only 9 (theoretically the target audience), thinking how bad it was. But I don’t remember Korman being in it — and considering how bad it was, perhaps thats the way he would want it. But I loved the Carol Burnett Show!

    Comment by American Elephant — May 31, 2008 @ 6:02 am - May 31, 2008

  16. #11: What’s doubly sad is that we have no one in this generation to carry their torches.

    Comment by Attmay — June 1, 2008 @ 8:35 pm - June 1, 2008

  17. #16, what ever happened to the variety show? SNL and MADtv just aren’t the same.

    Comment by American Elephant — June 2, 2008 @ 7:46 am - June 2, 2008

  18. #11 – “(and Lyle, whose last name I forget).”

    That was Lyle Waggoner, the hunky sidekick who later played opposite Lynda Carter in “Wonder Woman” as Steve Trevor. He was my first big TV-idol crush.

    Also, in viewing some old Carol Burnett footage, I was surprised at how well Lyle did comedy. I guess he was not just a pretty face. Or shoulders. Or arms. Or chest. Or legs.

    Excuse me, I need a cigarette.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — June 2, 2008 @ 11:17 am - June 2, 2008

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