American Culture

Count the money!

Insolent Flunky: Count da money.
Count de Monet: de Monet! Mo – nay! Say it with me, Mo – nay!

The legendary Harvey Korman is dead at 81.

I don’t usually do obituaries and even if I did I doubt I’d be very good at them, but I imagine there’ll be quite a few outstanding reflections on his career in the coming days. What I will do is note that there wasn’t much on TV when I was growing up. We had three stations and only one TV in the house, so whatever we watched, we watched together. In that world there wasn’t any room for niche programming. To be successful you had to entertain the kids, the adults, and in my case, the grandparents.

The Carol Burnett Show did that, and it’s hard to imagine it without Korman. I especially recall his sketches with Tim Conway, which frankly were just about the funniest things on television. Korman couldn’t look at Conway without cracking up, so everything they did together was basically doomed from the get-go. As a rule Conway would play some sort of bungler and Korman would try, desperately but in vain, simply to keep a straight face. In some cases he’d barely have a line. He could be a brilliant comedian just by sitting there trying not to break character.

After the first couple of times they worked together I’d start giggling as soon as I saw them on the screen together, because no matter how badly they butchered the skit, you were going to laugh. The whole family was going to laugh. America was going to laugh as one.

Thanks for the memories, Harvey.

4 replies »

  1. Blazing Saddles is one of the greatest movies ever. It’s one of those movies I can’t quote anywhere outside of my house. His character is classic!

  2. I will miss him. I remember the fun they had on the Carol Burnett show and realized that these people had the best job in the world, one they had a blast doing. I’m glad there are so many recorded memories of him. The World was a bit better because he was here.

  3. Thanks for the tribute to a wonderful comic actor, Sam. My whole family watched Carol Burnett’s show in the 70s and yep, seeing Harvey lose it had us in stitches, and just the memory of that still cracks me up. And I loved everything he did with Mel Brooks. As an anniversary gift I sent my folks to see Korman & Conway a few years ago when they toured together and they were still a rollickingly funny pair. Rest in peace, Harvey… thanks so much.