Another icon of the baby boomer generation, television comedian Harvey Korman, died Thursday. He was 81.
Perhaps best known for his outrageously funny contributions to The Carol Burnett Show, where he earned four Emmys, he also co-starred in Mel Brooks’ film Blazing Saddles.” Korman died at UCLA Medical Center after suffering complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm four months ago. He had undergone several major operations.
In 1967, he joined the cast in the first season of The Carol Burnett Show and along with Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway and Lyle Waggoner, the ensemble built a solid audience with their regular send-ups of classic movies such as “Gone With the Wind” and soap operas like “As the World Turns” (their version was called “As the Stomach Turns”).
According to an assistant, Burnett was devastated by news of Korman’s death.
His most memorable film role was as the outlandish Hedley Lamarr (who was endlessly exasperated when people called him Hedy) in Brooks’ 1974 Western satire, Blazing Saddles.
“A world without Harvey Korman — it’s a more serious world,” Brooks told the AP on Thursday. “It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we’d crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh.”
The ability to make Korman laugh was what made for some of the funniest and most memorable moments on the Burnett show. Co-star Tim Conway in particular always seemed to have a knack for getting him to break up, as in The Dentist sketch, seen here.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also note the passing this past week of other show business notables.
Director, producer and actor Sydney Pollack, died Monday at age 73.
Jazz and blues organist, Jimmy McGriff, passed away of multiple sclerosis last Saturday at age 72.
Finally one of the most prolific composers of music for television programming, Earle Hagen, died Monday at 88. He wrote the themes for countless popular shows, including The Andy Griffith Show, That Girl, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Spy.