BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — More than 50 years after Carol Burnett became the first woman to host a variety sketch show, a stint that would last 11 years and make her a household name, the 85-year-old accepted the very first Carol Burnett Award for lifetime achievement in television at the Golden Globes on Sunday.
"I am really gobsmacked by this," the emotional comedic icon said after accepting the award from fellow TV legend Steve Carell.
Burnett described how she first fell in love with movies when she would see as many as eight a week with her grandmother, who raised her. When Burnett got her first TV set, she said: "I had a new love."
"Regardless of the medium what fascinated me was the way the stars on the screen could make people laugh or cry or sometimes both," she said. "And I wished and I hoped that maybe, maybe just someday I could have the chance to do the same thing.
"Those dreams came true," she said.
"The Carol Burnett Show" debuted in 1967 when comedy largely was considered a man's game. It became one of the most honored shows in television history, averaging 30 million viewers a week and getting 25 Emmy awards.
Burnett said sometimes she catches herself wishing she were young so she could do it all over again, but stops herself when she realizes that today's TV producers would never finance a show like hers, with its 28-piece live orchestra, 12 dancers and 65 costumes a week.
"So here's to reruns and YouTube," she joked.
"I'm just happy that our show happened when it did and I can look back and say once more, 'I'm so glad we had this time together,'" she said, channeling a line from her show's theme song and tugging on her ear, her trademark and the way she used to say hello to her grandmother.
In addition to her work on TV, theater and movies, Burnett has established several scholarships around the country, including the Carol Burnett Musical Theatre Competition at her alma mater, The University of California, Los Angeles, and the Carrie Hamilton Foundation, to honor the memory of her daughter, who died in 2002.
In presenting her with the award, Carell joked that Burnett is so gracious and kind that "she makes Tom Hanks look like an (expletive.)" He later added that it was the greatest honor of his life to present the award to Burnett.
Burnett teased about the award's namesake: "Does this mean I get to accept it every year?"