A High School Student Called Carol Burnett. Carol Burnett Called Back.

Carol Burnett is an idol to generations of people—and specifically to me. When I was little, I remember being fixated by the villain of AnnieMiss Hannigan; I knew that I was supposed to hate her, but to me, she was the best part of the movie. When my parents introduced me to The Carol Burnett Show, I was struck by her presence, how she was both hilarious and comforting. The way she talked to the audience—so funny, so brilliant, so kind, so modern. Everyone in my generation should know her.

I wanted to tell her that myself. So I found contact information for Ms. Burnett and left her a message, telling her about the club I cofounded at my high school in Seattle in which I interview industry professionals. A few months later, after my club was over for the semester, I was in virtual math class when my phone rang. Though the screen said “Caller Unknown,” I answered anyway. I was greeted by a warm woman’s voice asking if I was Olivia. “Yes,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Carol Burnett.”

I instantly recognized her voice; she sounds exactly the same over the phone as she does onscreen. After hearing her iconic laugh, I could barely scrape two words together. The 89-year-old icon then very kindly offered to do an interview with me over the weekend, where we spoke about her upbringing, her friendship with Lucille Ball, the creation of The Carol Burnett Show, and her upcoming TV roles.

Vanity Fair: Before we get into questions, I love you. Oh, and it’s raining here. I read online that you say that’s good luck.

Carol Burnett: Yeah, I love rain. Not when it floods or anything like that, but when it’s just a nice soft rain. When I was a kid and I would take a test in school, and if it rained, I got an A. It calmed me down. There have been times when I’ve done specials, like with Julie Andrews, Beverly Sills, and Dolly Parton, and when we were taping, it would rain.

Really?

Yeah. I remember saying to Julie when we were going to do Carnegie Hall—and then 10 years later when we did Lincoln Center—both times I said, “Get ready. We’re gonna have rain.” And it wasn’t even predicted. I always felt that it was good luck.

When I was just getting started and wanted to be on the stage in New York, I got very lonesome and scared because I missed my grandmother, my mother, and my kid sister in California. I was in this hotel room thinking, Oh, should I have come here? And I turned on the radio and they said, “Hurricane Carol is coming to New York.” You can look it up. It was in August of 1954. And that calmed me down. I thought, Okay, I guess I’m supposed to be here.

So, what have you been doing during COVID?

Well, we’ve been kind of locked down. My husband and I live in Santa Barbara. We do crossword puzzles. We read. We watch television. We go for walks. We have a cat. Her name is Nikki. We named her after St. Nicholas, because she was born on Christmas. Tomorrow, we’re going to have brunch with some neighbors. But I’m still very careful. I’m also going to be working in August. I’m going to do a guest shot on Better Call Saul. It’s their final season. I’m in the last few episodes. It’ll be on next year. And then we’re talking about doing a movie with Julie Andrews, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and me. So, that’s kind of in the works. I’m assuming we would start that early next year. And how are you keeping busy?

I’ve been remote schooling, doing some virtual theater productions at school, and writing music for my YouTube channel.

How old are you?

17.

That’s a great age.

You’ve said you loved Jimmy Stewart when you were growing up. Who else inspired you?

When I was growing up, my grandmother and I—she raised me—we used to save our pennies and go to the movies. So, I grew up loving the movie musicals, like Singin’ in the Rain and all the MGM musicals with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. I loved movies because there was nothing cynical back then. The good guys always made it and the bad guys didn’t. When I went to New York, I was very naïve. I believed that, like in those Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies, they would say, “Let’s put on a show in our barn,” and they would and then all of a sudden, the producer would come and it would go to Broadway.

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