Remembering Harvey Korman

Harvey Korman had one of the best sneers in the business. The comic actor, who died yesterday at 81, fashioned an entire performance out of that sneer, his delightfully hissable villain Hedy Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. That was probably the role he’ll be remembered for most (here’s a clip of it, with some brief NSFW language), though he did similarly hilarious, apoplectic work in other Brooks movies. But his richest legacy is surely the 10 years he spent on The Carol Burnett Show, where Korman, Burnett, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence created sparkling sketch comedy. Korman specialized in prissy, vain, imperious authority figures (for whom that sneer came in handy, as did his excellent slow burn), but he had plenty of other colors in his palette as well. He and Conway shared a special chemistry (they spent much of the last decade or so touring in a live show together), with Korman often toning down his broad antics to play Conway’s second banana. (Watch his peerless straight-man work in this sketch with Conway, in which Korman gets laughs by doing almost nothing.) And he could do rough-hewn and loud-mouthed, too, as in his spoof of Robert Shaw’s salty shark hunter in this uproarious Jaws parody.

I was sad, of course, to hear of Korman’s passing, but there are worse ways to spend a morning than watching YouTube clips of Korman’s work and laughing out loud.

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  • orville

    I was so sad to see this on the news this morning. He was one of the greats. There’s almost nothing better than Korman and Conway trying to crack each other up in the middle of a skit. Like Mel Brooks said–a world without Harvey Korman is a much more serious place.

  • K

    I have fond memories of watching The Carol Burnett Show with my family growing up, and I always loved seeing them crack each other up. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore. What a great legacy to have brought many people so much joy. RIP.

  • Dinosaur

    I was born in ’72, and I fondly remember our entire family watching Carol Burnett. I distinctly remember Korman’s Snow White lying in the forest while Tim Conway attempted to wake him up, and Korman was cracking up the entire time.
    Thank you, Mr. Korman, for sharing your gift of comedy with the world.

  • Stephanie T.

    I am glad that you brought up the fact that Korman and Conway always found some way to make each other laugh during sketches. I think that was clearly the difference between Harvey Korman and Jimmy Fallon. Harvey made the laugh aloud look as if it was part of the sketch. That’s real acting.
    It’s strange. I am convinced that when Seth McFarlane made up the voice of Stewie, he borrowed Korman’s Great Gazoo voice. It sound’s very similar.

  • Broadway Baby

    I too had many a family night with Carol Burnett Show growing up and the dentist sketch has always been my favorite. Thank for sharing it. I also loved Harvey Corman in High Anxiety – I’m smiling now thinking about it. RIP

  • Jakeem2007

    My favorite Harvey Korman memory is from a mid-1960s episode of “F Troop,” in which he guest starred as Col. Von Zeppel, an insufferable Prussian balloon expert.
    Von Zeppel winds up flying over the territory of the Hekawi Indians, which prompted the unforgettable line from Chief Wild Eagle (Frank DeKova): “It…is…balloon!” Of course, the Hekawis shot him down with arrows.
    What can I say? It was the 60s. You really had to be there to appreciate it!

  • DanOregon

    Harvey Korman was like that friend of your dad’s who always made you laugh. I hope his family takes comfort in knowing Harvey provided a lot of happy memories for many, many people.

  • vw

    man , you know it’s gonna come someday but you hate it all the same. talent like his and conway’s is VERY rare these days. i wonder who in the comedic world today could equal them and by the standards in which they had to work by which i mean keep it clean. i doubt any really.

  • strickens_girl

    I remember sitting around watching reruns of The Carol Burnett Show with my dad and laughing until my sides hurt. Harvey Korman was a brilliant comedian and he will be sorely missed.

  • Nick

    He was talented, to be sure, but he’s among the last of a comedy breed. When he was good, he was snarky, salacious, and saucy. But when he was bad, he was the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”

  • jcarla

    ‘When he was good, he was snarky, salacious, and saucy.’
    “Don’t get saucy with me, Bernaise” – History of the World. Still made me double over with laughter. RIP, you great man.

  • Leah

    I loved Lucy AND Harvey. They were my favorite comedic performers.

  • Michael Davis

    Pray for the strength to be given to Tim Conway. The laughter must go on.
    Harvey will be missed.

  • Clay Hawks

    Harvey, I miss your ability to make me laugh. Where will we find another talent like yours? Why am I asking you?
    Good bye and thank you.

  • KathyinCT

    I was hoping this day would never come. I actually have prayed thru these years that him & Tim would keep on going strong with their health. He is one along with Tim of celebrities that I never want to see leave us. Unfortunately, The Lord wanted to take Harvey now. I am very glad I was able to see him & Tim’s traveling show twice in the past 6 years. Harvey even talked about how it was to get old, little did he know a fan in the audience was hoping he would keep healthy and onward. When the news was on of his passing, I couldnt even laugh at the scenes they showed of his comedic roles, I actually cried for I am soo sad. The knowing he is still alive while watching him is no longer, it will be very hard to get used to. I hope I can laugh again when I watch reruns of his stuff, it is really hard to digest this. May his family and his close friends, namely Carol, Tim, Vicky, & Lyle be able to get through this easily. I sent this up to The Lord to tell Harvey: he is greatly missed.

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