Carol Burnett likely has memorable weekends ahead, but topping the one she just had will be tough.
On Sunday (Oct. 20), the comedy icon — who starred in CBS’ “The Carol Burnett Show” for 11 years (1967-78) — became the 16th recipient of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at an event PBS will televise Sunday, Nov. 24. Before she left Washington, D.C., she had a stop she didn’t anticipate: the White House, where she met President Barack Obama for the first time.
“It was a thrill,” six-time Emmy winner Burnett tells Zap2it of visiting him in the Oval Office. “We didn’t know until Friday that it was a ‘go.’ I had no idea the Mark Twain people were even working on it, because of the government shutdown. My assistant Angie said, ‘Are you sitting down? Barring any further emergencies, you’re invited to the Oval Office.’
“So was my family. I had with me my sister Chris, my daughters Jody and Erin, my grandson Zach and my husband Brian. We got to the White House and went through all the security, then we were taken to the Roosevelt Room to wait because the President was running late; he had a speech to give earlier that morning.”
Burnett and company then were taken to a hallway outside the Oval Office, and they were greeted by someone familiar: “The next thing we knew, the President himself opened the door and said, ‘Come in! Come in!’ It was like, ‘Welcome to my home.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I’d been expecting some Marine or someone to open the door instead.”
An Obama supporter politically, Burnett was impressed that he “remembered everybody’s name, which I think is phenomenal. And we sat and talked for about 25 minutes. He sat on the edge of his desk, and we just had this great gab-fest.”
Though the occasion was her first meeting with the current chief executive, it wasn’t the first time Burnett — who guest-stars as McGarrett’s (Alex O’Loughlin) aunt on “Hawaii Five-0” Friday, Nov. 22, on CBS — had been in the office.
“When I was first there, it was with (John F.) Kennedy,” she recalls. “He pointed out, on the floor that leads out to the lawn, golf cleat marks. And he loved it. He said, ‘Those are from (Dwight D.) Eisenhower. He’d wear his golf shoes in the Oval Office, and walk out and putt a little bit on the lawn.’
‘The next time I was in the Oval Office, it was with (Lyndon B.) Johnson … and they had buffed the marks out. I just thought that was terrible. That’s history! I didn’t mention that to President Obama, though.”