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Vicki Lawrence performs as herself and Mama

Comedienne regales audience with tales of her career

September 28, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Vicki Lawrence portrays Mama from "Mama's Family" Wednesday afternoon at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Vicki Lawrence told an audience of more than 600 people at a matinee in Hagerstown Wednesday that she had been playing the role of Mama since it was a written up as a skit on "The Carol Burnett Show" nearly four decades ago.

The Inglewood, Calif., native was 24 when she first played Mama, with the older Burnett playing her daughter, Eunice, Lawrence recalled.

In the first of her two-woman show — the first half as herself, the second as Mama — Emmy-award winner Lawrence served up a mixture of stories, stand-up comedy and a "medley of my hit," "That's the Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia," to an appreciative afternoon audience at The Maryland Theatre.

A second performance of "Vicki Lawrence & Mama" was scheduled for 8 p.m.

In the first half of the show, Lawrence, now 62, regaled the audience with tales of her career, including meeting a very pregnant Burnett at a fireman's ball where she was crowned Miss Fireball.

"Do firemen still have balls?" Lawrence wondered aloud.

The not-so-natural redhead told the audience how she wrote a letter to Burnett noting her resemblance to the star. Burnett called her and came to the event, where she ended up crowning Lawrence with a gold fire helmet, she said.

Burnett hired the teenager for what turned out to be an 11-year gig on "The Carol Burnett Show." Once that ended, "Mama's Family" spun off into an NBC situation comedy, which was later syndicated.

With her floral dress, sensible shoes, bluish hair and spectacles, Mama on stage is a slightly more risqué version of the aged, curmudgeonly Southern matriarch Lawrence portrayed on television.

The material has been updated to include topical references to President Obama, Washington budget negotiations and former California governor Arnold "Schwarzenbanger."

"The last time I saw a girl like her on TV, Judy Garland took her ruby slippers and a house dropped on her,"  she said of oft-maligned reality star Kate Gosselin of "Kate Plus Eight."

"I've pulled better looking hair out of my shower drain," she said of real estate mogul Donald Trump's mysterious coiffure.

Mama also busted a few rhymes in a geriatric rap and finished with a top hat and feather boa, high-stepping and warbling "One" from "A Chorus Line."

The audience for the show was mostly mature, but there were a few younger faces in the crowd.

Jeannie Huntzberry of Hagerstown said she has been a fan of Lawrence going back to her days with Burnett, but her daughter Karen knew the comedienne and actress from reruns of "Mama's Family."

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