Saturday, May 31, 2008

Harvey Korman 1927 - 2008

The late Harvey Korman, second from right, in a 1968 skit on "The Carol Burnett Show," in which some shapely legs -- and then their owners -- are revealed to the audience. From left, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Jackie Gregory, Lyle Waggoner, Korman and Burnett.

"Give me something bizarre to play, or put me in a dress and I'm fine," Korman jokingly said in a 2005 Chicago Sun-Times interview.

My family to this day will recite lines from "Eunice and Ed" when we get together.

Korman and Conway developed an uncanny rapport that made them arguably one of television's most lethal comic teams; Conway's on-camera ad-libs often made Korman crack up; producers wisely kept them in the show.

For about eight years, until late last December, the pair toured the country in a stage show that, more than anything, was a homage to their years with Burnett. They performed about 120 shows a year.

"I don't know whether either one of us was the straight man," Conway said. "The most important thing in comedy when you're working together is for one guy to know when to shut up. And we both knew when to shut up; quiet show, actually."

One of their favorite routines from the Burnett show was the dentist sketch, "where I kind of anesthetize my entire body with Novocain" while trying to fill Korman's teeth, Conway told The Times on Thursday.

"They play it at all the dental schools, as kind of an introduction on how not to do it," Conway said.

Korman suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm in January, the same malady that claimed my uncle Toots in his early sixties, several years ago. Most people cannot survive it but Korman battled for four months before passing on Thursday.

I think my favorite memory of Korman is from Blazing Saddles, when his character Hedley Lamarr was constantly irritated at having to correct the pronunciation of his name.

"Head - leh"

It's been a difficult week for Hollywood legends, and those of us who are their fans.

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