One of the funniest TV shows of its time, The Carol Burnett Show had audiences in stitches — and even made one of its own cast members wet his pants. Interestingly, Harvey Korman only wet himself because the sketch did not proceed as planned. Here’s a look at what happened — in addition to how Burnett reacted to the incident.
The origin of a show from ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ that spun out of control
Firstly, a little background. According to the book What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life, it all starts with a trip to the dentist. Carol Burnett Show cast member Tim Conway went to the dentist. His dentist told him he accidentally stabbed himself with his Novocaine needle. The dentist then had to carry on with his duties with a numb thumb while his assistant was none the wiser. This anecdote inspired Conway to write a sketch for the show where he played a dentist and Harvey Korman played his patient.
“During the rehearsals, I fumbled around looking first in the book and then into Harvey’s mouth as he sat in the dentist’s chair,” Conway recalled. “When we began taping the scene on Friday, Harvey got in the chair and I began my watch-out-Harvey-here-it-comes routine.”
He added “If you view the video, you can tell exactly when I start to move away from the script just by the expression on Harvey’s face. I intended to stab my hand with the needle but I didn’t stop there. I jabbed my hand, I jabbed my leg, and I jabbed my head. Harvey sat there in the chair ready to explode, which he did. The poor guy actually wet his pants by the time the sketch ended.”
How Carol Burnett and her co-stars reacted to this incident
So how did Conway feel about making someone wet their pants? According to The Washington Post, he said “I’m very proud of that, too because I owned a cleaners at the time.”
How did Burnett feel about all this? MeTV reports she named “The Dentist” as her second-favorite sketch in the history of the show. The only sketch from the show she preferred was “As the Stomach Turns: Close Encounters,” a soap opera parody of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “As the Stomach Churns: Close Encounters” featured some major star power, as both Steve Martin and Betty White appeared in it. Unlike Conway and Burnett, Korman does not appear to have commented on the incident publicly.
Where Tim Conway’s career went from there
After The Carol Burnett Show ended, Conway would continue to be a television legend. He would originate the role of Barnacle Boy on the Nickelodeon sitcom SpongeBob SquarePants and play it for many years. Whether playing a dentist or an undersea superhero, Conway sure knew how to make people laugh.
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