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43 Dead Game of Thrones TV Characters Who Are Still Alive in the Books

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George R.R. Martin may be famous for killing off fictional characters, but let’s not downplay the homicidal tendencies of Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and Davis Benioff. The list of alive-and-kicking book characters whose on-screen counterparts have gone to the great godswood in the sky just keeps growing, especially now that the show’s many plotlines have flown past their book counterparts. The season six finale, in particular, was a bloodbath. And who knows? Maybe season seven will get the “dead in the show, alive in the books” list up to an even 50. After all, valar morghulis: All men must die.

WARNING: Spoilers for all aired episodes and all published books.

1. JEYNE WESTERLING/TALISA OF VOLANTIS


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One of the major book-to-show changes made by Game of Thrones is a complete overhaul of the character of Robb Stark’s wife. In the books, she’s Jeyne Westerling, the daughter of one of Stark’s minor vassals. In the show, she’s Talisa, a noblewoman from the foreign land of Volantis. Whatever the specifics about Mrs. King of the North, in the show she’s dead—memorably killed during the Red Wedding—and in the books she’s alive, mourning her late husband and possibly (according to some fans) carrying his child.

2. JOJEN REED

This one’s a bit iffy, because if you believe a popular fan theory, Jojen Reed—one of Bran Stark’s traveling companions and the one who taught him about his supernatural powers—is actually dead in the books. In the show, however, it’s a sure thing: the season four finale saw him get stabbed multiple times by a zombie skeleton (a “wight,” in Thrones parlance), before his sister Meera mercy killed him by slitting his throat. Oh, and then his body was blown up. This character is no more. He has ceased to be!

3. AND 4. PYP AND GRENN

Game of Thrones book readers were shocked when season four’s penultimate episode, “The Watchers on the Wall,” saw Jon Snow’s close friends Pyp and Grenn killed during the battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildling army of Mayce Rayder. They’re still around as of A Dance with Dragons, serving at Castle Black and freezing their butts off.

5. SHIREEN BARATHEON 


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In one of Game of Thrones’ more gruesome scenes (and there have been a fair number of those), season five’s penultimate episode saw Stannis Baratheon burn his teenage daughter Shireen at the stake as an offering to the god R’hllor, who counts sacrifices of those with king’s blood among his very, very favorite things. In the books, Shireen and her mother Selyse are still at Castle Black, while Stannis and his army are snowed in several days’ march from their intended destination of Winterfell. Showrunners Weiss and Benioff have implied that Shireen’s show fate is what eventually happens to her in the books, though if that’s true, the specifics of her death may change.

6. AND 7. RAKHARO AND IRRI

By the end of George R.R. Martin’s most recent A Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance with Dragons, these two members of Team Daenerys—one of her bloodriders (essentially a bodyguard) and one of her handmaidens, respectively—are out hunting for their MIA queen, who took one of her dragons out for a quick jaunt and never came back. In the show, the pair of them have been long dead—Rakharo killed offscreen in early season two by an anonymous khalasar, Irri strangled to death a few episodes later as part of a plot to steal Daenerys’ dragons.

8. XARO XHOAN DAXOS

Irri’s death, as revealed in a deleted scene, came at the hands of fellow handmaiden Doreah, who had secretly been conspiring against her Khaleesi with the merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos. As punishment, Daenerys locks the pair of them in Xaro’s vault, leaving them to die. In the books, while Doreah’s dead (of a wasting disease), Xaro’s still around to be a pain in Daenerys’ queenly neck. In book five, he pops up in Meereen to try and bribe her into going to Westeros and stop messing around with the slave trade. She refuses, and Qarth declares war on her.

9. PYAT PREE

This character—warlock, bald, purple lips, creepy—is in the same boat as Xaro Xhoan Daxos: They were both part of season two’s Qarth storyline, they both conspired to steal Daenerys’ dragons, they both died in the show (Pyat Pree was burned alive, which is just what happens when you mess with dragons), and they are both still alive and nursing major chips on their shoulders in the books. Pyat, a minor character, hasn’t actually been present for three books now, though Xaro mentions to Daenerys in book five that his warlock bud is still very much alive and plans to get revenge against her for burning the House of the Undying to the ground.

10. MANCE RAYDER 


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The death of Wildling King Mance Rayder is one of eight season five deaths that didn’t happen in the books. In the show, he was burned at the stake for refusing to declare allegiance to Stannis Baratheon. Ditto the books, except—the way Martin writes it—it’s revealed that the man who actually died is a Wildling named Rattleshirt, who was glamored by Melisandre to look like Mance. The show could conceivably still pull a bait and switch and reveal that Mance is alive and protected by a magical disguise, but given HBO’s fondness for truncating plot lines, it doesn’t seem likely.

11. BARRISTAN SELMY

Fans of Barristan Selmy who were upset by his tragic death midway through season five can take refuge in the original books, where the former knight and hardcore Daenerys supporter wasn’t slain by the group of insurgents known as the Sons of the Harpy. Instead, book-Barristan assumes the title the “Hand of the Queen” after Daenerys disappears from Meereen and does his best to keep the city standing while his sovereign is away. He has a particularly hard time dealing with Daenerys’ husband, Hizdahr zo Loraq, who, oh yeah …

12. HIZDAHR ZO LORAQ

… is also not dead in the books—though a scene in the penultimate episode of season five had him stabbed to death by the Sons of the Harpy.

13. CATELYN STARK

This one’s less straightforward, so stick with us: In the books, Catelyn Stark was murdered at the Red Wedding but came back as Lady Stoneheart, a sort of vengeance-minded, zombie version of her former self. In the show, there’s been nary a whisper of Lady Stoneheart, even though we’ve passed the point in the story when she would have shown up. Actress Michelle Fairley has said outright that her character won't be coming back, but hey, this cast has lied before. But for now, Catelyn is dead in the show, and undead in the books.

14. AND 15. DORAN AND TRYSTANE MARTELL

The Dornish plotline is a lot bloodier in the show than it is in the books. Shortly after Myrcella is assassinated by Ellaria Sand, Prince Doran Martell and his son and heir, Trystane, are murdered as well; Doran by Ellaria, Trystane by his cousin Obara. In the books, Doran is still playing the long game, trying to stay out of a war with the Lannisters while secretly attempting to broker an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen. Book Trystane, younger than his show counterpart, has still only been mentioned, never actually seen.

16. MYRCELLA BARATHEON


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In the books, Myrcella Baratheon—the only daughter of Cersei and Jaime Lannister—is currently missing an ear, the result of a botched Dornish plot to install her as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms over her younger brother Tommen, thereby starting a civil war. In the show, she fares quite a bit worse, having been assassinated by Ellaria Sand in the season five finale as payback for her family’s role in the death of Oberyn Martell.

17. STANNIS BARATHEON

The end of A Dance with Dragons leaves Stannis Baratheon and his army in a pretty bad place: en route to Winterfell to take the North back from the Boltons, they’re trapped in a blizzard that shows no signs of relenting. Back at the Wall, Jon Snow receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton claiming that Stannis has been killed. (An already-released chapter from The Winds of Winter gives us some additional information on that front; obviously, there are spoilers.) In the show, Stannis makes it out of the snowstorm after he sacrifices his daughter Shireen (see above) to the Red God, but during the subsequent battle between his army and the Boltons, he’s killed by Brienne of Tarth. Brienne, you’ll remember, vowed vengeance on Stannis for his role in the assassination of his brother (and Brienne’s liege lord) Renly back in season two. See, Stannis? This is why you don’t kill family members.

18. SELYSE BARATHEON

Lest you think any of the Baratheons make it out of Game of Thrones happy and whole (Robert’s bastard son Gendry is at least supposedly out there somewhere, not dead), Stannis’ wife Selyse hanged herself in the season five finale after allowing her daughter to be sacrificed. In the books, Selyse and Shireen are currently living in Castle Black with the Night’s Watch.

19. AND 20. ROOSE AND WALDA BOLTON 


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In the second episode of season six, Lord of Winterfell and betrayer of the Starks Roose Bolton is in turn betrayed by his own son, Ramsay, after his wife, Walda, gives birth to a son that Ramsay believes could threaten his standing as the Bolton heir. In addition to stabbing his father to death, Ramsay murders his stepmother and unnamed half-brother by setting his dogs on them.

21. MERYN TRANT

In the books, Kingsguard member Meryn Trant hasn’t been up to much lately; since testifying at Tyrion’s trial for the murder of King Joffrey, he’s mostly tooled around King’s Landing guarding the Lannisters. The show, however, sent him off to Braavos as a guard for new Master of Coin, Mace Tyrell. Let’s just say there have been better business trips; Arya Stark, training to be an assassin at the House of Black and White, happened upon Trant and tracked him to a brothel, where she killed him in retaliation for his (presumed) murder of her mentor Syrio Forel back in season one.

22. BRYNDEN TULLY

Fan favorite character Brynden “Blackfish” Tully—uncle to Catelyn Stark—is still alive and kicking alive in the books, out somewhere in the Riverlands causing problems for Lannister forces. In the show, on the other hand, he was ultimately unable to escape the Lannister family’s wrath and received an offscreen death at the hands of anonymous soldiers.

23. AND 24. SUMMER AND SHAGGYDOG

Poor, poor direwolves. In Martin’s books, two have been offed so far: Sansa’s Lady, killed in A Game of Thrones, and Robb Stark’s Grey Wind, one of the casualties of A Storm of Swords’ Red Wedding. In HBO’s Thrones, Bran’s Summer and Rickon’s Shaggydog also met violent ends at the hands of the Wights and Ramsay Bolton’s allies the Umbers, respectively. Ghost and Nymeria had better watch out.

25. WALDER FREY


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One character whose death Thrones fans have long craved is turncoat Walder Frey, who was instrumental in orchestrating the infamous (and very bloody) Red Wedding. For his part in the murder of her brother and mother, Arya Stark has long had ol’ Walder on her kill list. In the season six finale, the youngest Stark daughter made good on her deadly promise and slit Frey’s throat. In the books, Walder’s still around, his extended family being picked off by Lady Stoneheart (who hasn't made it into the show, disappointing fans and Martin himself) and her followers.

26., 27., AND 28. HODOR, LEAF, AND THE THREE-EYED RAVEN

The wight battle that saw Summer bite the dust also took out three characters who are still, in the books, an integral part of Bran’s storyline: Leaf, a Child of the Forest; the Three-Eyed Raven (called the Three-Eyed Crow in the books), Bran’s mentor; and Bran’s longtime companion Hodor, whose death and backstory revelation (“Hold the door”) was a particularly traumatic one for Thrones fans.

29., 30. AND 31. MARGAERY, LORAS, AND MACE TYRELL

Game of Thrones’s season six finale was, in a word, a bloodbath. Cersei’s grand plan for vengeance came to fruition when she and Qyburn managed to blow up King’s Landing’s Great Sept, with—among others—Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell trapped inside. That leaves one Tyrell, matriarch Olenna, still alive and plotting vengeance in the show, while in the books the Lannisters' rival family (one of them, anyway) is still more or less intact.

32. AND 33. THE HIGH SPARROW AND LANCEL LANNISTER

Two other poor characters who went kablooey in the season six finale are the High Sparrow, leader of a fanatical religious group, and his acolyte Lancel Lannister. In the books, the whole “Cersei vs. the Church” plotline is still playing out, with Cersei unsuccessful at outmaneuvering her cultish enemies… so far. Another character, Septa Unella, has been captured by Cersei in the show and handed over to Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. The Mountain, to be tortured. She appears, for all intents and purposes, to be out of commission, but she’s not technically dead.

34. RAMSAY BOLTON


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Turnabout is fair play for the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Season six’s penultimate episode, “The Battle of the Bastards,” sees Jon Snow finally go head-to-head with Bolton at Winterfell. Snow beats Bolton half to death and then locks him up in his kennels … but it’s at the hands of his own starving dogs, unleashed by Sansa Stark, that Bolton finally meets his doom.

35., 36., AND 37. RICKON STARK, OSHA, AND WUN WUN

Before being eaten alive, Ramsay and his men managed to take out three still-alive-in-the-books characters: The Wildling giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, a.k.a. Wun Wun; youngest Stark child Rickon; and Rickon’s Wildling guardian Osha. In the show, Rickon and Osha were betrayed by Smalljohn Umber and delivered to Ramsay Bolton, who stabbed Osha in the neck and, several episodes later, shot Rickon to lure Jon Snow into an attack. In the books, Rickon and Osha haven’t been seen for a while, but we know they’re hiding out on the cannibal-infested island of Skagos. The end of book five has Davos Seaworth embarking on a quest to retrieve Stark so that his family’s still-loyal allies can rally around him.

38. BROTHER RAY

As with Jeyne Westerling/Talisa of Volantis, Ian McShane’s Brother Ray is a character who’s different in the show than he is in the books. Or, rather, Ray is something of a combination of two book characters: Septon Meribald, a man of the faith who ministers to war-beset commoners, and the Elder Brother, the leader of a community of monks that (per a popular fan theory) is harboring a still-living Sandor Clegane. (In the show it’s been confirmed that Sandor is still alive, while in the books his status is officially TBD.) Regardless of character specifics, in the books Meribald and the Elder Brother are both alive, while in the show Brother Ray was killed by the marauding Brotherhood Without Banners after one episode.

39. DAGMER CLEFTJAW

A fairly minor character in the show and the books, Dagmer Cleftjaw is a warrior and man-at-arms hailing from House Greyjoy. In the show, he and his men received an offscreen death-by-flaying at the hands of Ramsay Bolton after the latter’s capture of Winterfell from Theon Greyjoy. In the books, he has his life and his skin, having been holding the Northern stronghold of Torrhen’s Square with a force of Ironborn for quite some time.

40. TOMMEN BARATHEON


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Let’s pour one out for little Tommen. The season six finale saw Cersei and Jaime’s youngest child join his sister Myrcella in the “Wait, You’re Not Supposed to Be Dead Yet!” club. Pulled back and forth all season by the competing interests of his mother and his wife Margaery, Tommen committed suicide after the former engineered the latter’s death-by-explosion. In the books, the conflict between Cersei and the Tyrells hasn’t come to a head quite yet. Tommen could probably use some hugs before things get really bad.

41. LOTHAR FREY

One of the more popular theories among A Song of Ice and Fire fans is one called “Frey Pies,” which posits that Stark bannerman Wyman Manderly baked some of Walder Frey’s relatives into meat pies and fed them to him. That theory’s credibility got a boost in the season six finale when Arya Stark did that very thing before cutting Frey’s throat. In the show, one of the pie-bound Freys was Lothar, who killed Arya’s sister-in-law Talisa and her unborn child during the Red Wedding seasons earlier. In the books, though still involved in the Red Wedding, Lothar has so far managed to escape that cannibalistic fate.

42. ALLISER THORNE

A perpetual… er… thorn in Jon Snow’s side, Night’s Watch master-at-arms Alliser Thorne is all but exiled by Snow in A Dance with Dragons when he’s sent on a mission beyond the Wall. As such, he’s not around for the mutiny that fells Snow (if only temporarily). In the show, Thorne spearheads the mutiny and is hanged for treason once Snow is resurrected.

43. MAEGE MORMONT

Maege Mormont, known as She-Bear, is a loyal follower of the House Stark and the matriarch of a whole clan of kick-ass ladies. In the show, she sacrifices her life for her liege, dying in some unspecified battle after appearing very, very briefly in a handful of episodes. Her death makes way for her young, steel-willed daughter Lyanna to become head of her family. In the books, Maege is still involved in the fighting, though readers haven’t actually seen her in quite some time.

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A Stretchy Past: Remembering Stretch Armstrong
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Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

One sure sign of a toy craze is annoyed toy store owners, and in 1976, there were plenty of them. The reason? The Kenner Company had introduced a novel 10-inch latex doll that never remained on shelves for more than a few minutes at a time.

He was Stretch Armstrong, and the $11 toy that made Kenner over $50 million in revenue had a secret: He was basically just a big sack of corn syrup.

Stretch Armstrong toys are put on display
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Stretch came to a market before Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe, and other brands shrunk characters down to just a few inches to make their vehicles more affordable. Taken to his literal length, he may have been the largest action figure ever produced. By tugging on his arms, legs, and torso, the toy could expand to a Reed Richards-esque 4 feet long. Similar-sized toys may have had cloth outfits and cool accessories, but kids couldn't tie them into literal knots.

The idea for a stretchable toy was hatched at Kenner in 1974 by design director Jesse Horowitz, who shared a satellite office in New York with the company's vice president of research and development, James "Jeep" Kuhn. "My job was to come up with ideas," Horowitz tells Mental Floss. "Every week or two, he'd take a look and say, 'I like that one.'"

One of the sketches that caught Kuhn's eye was what Horowitz called "Stretch Man." It was a figure that kids could treat like taffy, contorting his limbs until they snapped back into place. Initially, the idea use coiled springs for a skeleton, but that was dismissed when concerns grew over the potential for kids to cut themselves on the metal.

"Jeep, being a chemical engineer, said, 'We could put some syrup in it instead," Horowitz says. "So we sent our secretary out to buy a bunch of Karo syrup at the local A&P. We cleaned out the shelves."

In the office, Kuhn, Horowitz, and a model maker named Richie Dubek boiled down the corn syrup until it was devoid of air and filled their sample latex molds. They showed it to Kenner president Bernie Loomis, who quickly signed off on the product.

For mass production, the company eventually settled on using a mold to create a latex “muscleman” without a head: His neck would be the filling station for a gooey infusion of corn syrup, which was cut with micron-sized bits of glass and wood particles to help increase his volume. After some experimentation, Kenner arrived at just the right viscosity of syrup that would let Stretch return to his regular proportions without harming his latex dermis.

The patent speculated that the process could be applied to everything from a sumo wrestler to a giraffe to a “shapely woman.” While Horowitz had considered making a sumo man, his prototype was too heavy and the idea was discarded. As for the woman, he says Kenner considered it, but not as a stretch figure. "They thought they could take the corn syrup and make a more realistic doll, since Bernie wanted to beat Barbie at the time," he says. "But it never went anywhere."

In the end, the company stuck with Stretch for their holiday 1976 debut. Supported by television spots, the toy was quickly cleaned off shelves, joining Pong games and Kenner’s own Bionic Woman figure as one of the biggest retail successes of the season—not to mention one of the largest consumers of corn syrup in the country.

In the event kids nicked Stretch, he came with 10 tiny bandages to re-seal his skin. Still, the force of play sometimes left him oozing his gelatinous red plasm, particularly around his neck, where his head had been affixed with an O-ring to close his syrup orifice.

Stretch sold steadily from 1976 to 1979, at which point the novelty seemed to wear off. Market saturation could have been one reason: In addition to Kenner’s Stretch Octopus, Stretch Monster, and Stretch X-Ray, the Mego Corporation allegedly took some manufacturing secrets from a disgruntled ex-Kenner employee and started issuing a line of Elastic superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman. Kenner sued for unfair competition, and a judge barred Mego from exporting factory technology to make the dolls. But it was a largely moot point as the toys' popularity was already well in decline.

Today, Stretch’s relatively fragile nature has made him a valuable aftermarket item. Armstrong dolls in a box that aren’t bleeding profusely from '70s wounds can fetch over $1000 on auction sites, with especially rare versions or prototypes worth more. Mego’s Batman knockoff, considered by some to be a holy grail of stretchable collecting, once sold for $15,000.

Horowitz keeps in touch with collectors, who are typically interested in his original sketches and molds. One of the earliest Stretch samples, however, didn't survive long enough to become a vintage collectible. "I remember taking one of the first samples home and putting it on our bookshelf," Horowitz says. "Because it was facing the window, the UV light just ate right through the latex and the red syrup came dripping down all over my wife's books. I was in the doghouse for a while after that."

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16 Fun Facts About The Carol Burnett Show
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After a short stint in the New York theater world, comedienne Carol Burnett landed a job as a regular on The Garry Moore Show in 1959. She caught the attention of CBS executives, who offered her her own series in 1967. With her husband Joe Hamilton at the helm, Burnett broke new ground as the first female host of a TV variety show. The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons and earned a handful of Emmy Awards in the process. To celebrate the legendary comedienne's 85th birthday, here are some fun facts about the show and the folks who made it so side-splittingly hilarious.

1. CAROL BURNETT’S MOTHER WANTED HER TO BE A WRITER.

As Carol Burnett painfully recalled later in life, whenever she’d expressed an interest in a career in the theater as a teen, her mother would always dissuade her and recommend that she would have better luck studying to become a writer. “You can always write, no matter what you look like,” she would add.

2. A TOTAL STRANGER HELPED TO LAUNCH BURNETT’S CAREER.

As she was nearing graduation from UCLA, Burnett and several fellow drama students were invited to a departing professor’s house to perform at his bon voyage party. She performed a scene from the musical Annie Get Your Gun and later that evening, while she was standing in the buffet line, a man she’d never seen before approached her and complimented her performance. He then inquired what she planned to do with her life. She confessed that she dreamed of going to New York one day for a career on the stage, but seeing that she barely had enough gas money to drive back to Los Angeles that evening, it would be a very long time before she’d make it to Broadway. The man told her he’d be happy to lend her $1000 to get her started, with three conditions: that she repay him without interest in five years, that she was never to reveal his identity, and that once she was successful she must pass a similar kindness along to another person in need. (After pondering the offer over the weekend and consulting her mother and grandmother—who advised her to steer clear of the strange man who was probably involved in human trafficking or something worse—she took a chance and accepted his check.)

3. VICKI LAWRENCE CAUGHT BURNETT’S ATTENTION BY WRITING HER A FAN LETTER.


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When Vicki Lawrence cut her hair in a short “pixie” cut as a high school senior, many of her classmates commented on her resemblance to Carol Burnett. Lawrence’s somewhat overbearing stage mother encouraged her to write Burnett a letter, which she did, enclosing a photo and a newspaper article that mentioned her upcoming appearance in the Inglewood, California Miss Fireball Contest. To her surprise, a seven-months-pregnant Burnett showed up at the pageant to cheer her on. When Burnett had her baby, Lawrence took some flowers to the hospital, thinking she’d just drop them off. But when the nurse on duty saw her, she immediately mistook her for Burnett’s real-life half-sister Chrissie and exclaimed, “Wait until you see the baby!” and ushered her into Carol’s room.

4. LAWRENCE ENDED UP PLAYING BURNETT’S SISTER ON THE SHOW.

When they were casting The Carol Burnett Show, the star remembered the teen and hired her despite her lack of experience. At first her only role was in the recurring “Carol and Sis” sketch, in which Lawrence played “Chrissie,” Burnett’s younger sister. Lawrence recalled in her 1995 autobiography that Burnett was very nurturing to all her co-stars, making sure everyone got their share of the best jokes, but it was Harvey Korman who took her under his wing in the beginning and taught her about timing, dialects, and working with props.

5. THE Q&A AT THE BEGINNING WAS BURNETT’S HUSBAND’S IDEA.


By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Joe Hamilton was not only Carol Burnett’s husband, he was also the show’s executive producer. It was traditional at the time (and still is, in some cases) to have a stand-up comic step onstage before a show to tell some jokes and “warm up” the audience. Hamilton was wary of going that route, however; as Burnett later recalled, “He worried, ‘What if the guy is funnier than the rest of you?’” He thought it would be a good ice-breaker if Burnett herself went out front before the proceedings to welcome the audience and answer a couple of questions. Over the next 11 seasons, the question that she was asked the most was “Can you do your Tarzan yell?”

6. BURNETT ONCE USED HER TARZAN YELL AS A FORM OF IDENTIFICATION.

While shopping for nylon stockings at New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman one day, the saleswoman recognized Burnett and asked for her autograph for her grandchildren. When it came time to check out, Burnett realized that she didn’t have her credit card or driver’s license in her wallet. She inquired if she could write a check. “I’ll have to see some ID,” replied the woman who’d requested an autograph just moments before. The floor manager intervened and told Burnett that she’d accept her check if Burnett would do her Tarzan yell. Burnett complied, prompting a security guard to kick open a nearby door, burst in and point his gun at her.

7. LYLE WAGONNER WAS THE FIRST CENTERFOLD IN PLAYGIRL MAGAZINE.

Joe Hamilton was looking for a handsome, “Rock Hudson-type” when casting the announcer for his wife’s show. Former encyclopedia salesman Lyle Waggoner landed the job not only due to his devastating good looks, but also because he had a good sense of humor about how pretty he was. He was even good-natured about the teasing he got from his castmates after posing for the centerfold of Playgirl magazine’s premiere issue in 1973.

8. HARVEY KORMAN WAS THE FIRST CAST MEMBER HIRED.

The producers wanted a “Harvey Korman-type” for Burnett’s second banana, but didn’t bother to actually ask Korman if he was interested in the job because he was already a regular on The Danny Kaye Show, and most likely he wouldn’t leave a steady job for an unproven new show. Burnett herself spotted Korman in the CBS parking lot one day and “practically threw him over the hood of a car” begging him to join her show. Unbeknownst to her, Kaye’s show was about to get the axe after a four-year run, so Korman cheerfully accepted her offer shortly after that first meeting.

9. TIM CONWAY RARELY FOLLOWED HIS SCRIPT.

Conway had been a frequent guest star on the show, and when Lyle Waggoner decided to leave the show in 1974 (he felt that he was being “underused”), Conway was hired to replace him the following year. Conway was legendary for veering off-script and ad-libbing for lengthy stretches, to the amusement of some of his co-stars (Korman) and annoyance of others (Lawrence, who sometimes resented Conway’s disruptions and spotlight-hogging). Lawrence finally slipped her own ad-lib in on one memorable occasion, as Conway rambled on and on about an elephant during a “Family” sketch. Her NSFW remark brought the rest of the cast to their knees and was said to be Dick Clark’s favorite all-time outtake on his Bloopers and Practical Jokes TV show.

10. MRS. WIGGINS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS AN ELDERLY WOMAN.

Conway created the Mr. Tudball/Mrs. Wiggins characters and wrote (or ad-libbed) many of their sketches. His original concept had Mrs. Wiggins being ancient, slow, and forgetful. But costume designer Bob Mackie decided that Burnett had played too many “old lady” characters on the show and designed a very voluptuous look for her instead. He explained at the time that he had certain “ditzy” CBS secretaries in mind when he stitched the curvy costume together.

11. THE SHOW THAT BECAME MAMA’S FAMILY STARTED OUT AS A MUCH DARKER ONE-OFF SKETCH.

A sketch called “The Reunion,” which originally aired in March of 1974, featured the characters that eventually became known as “The Family.” In this initial installment, Roddy McDowall played Phillip Harper, the successful younger brother of Eunice, returning home for a visit after winning a Pulitzer Prize. The family members were far crankier and more argumentative (and perhaps more representative of actual family life as they talked over one another and changed topics as soon as a thought occurred to them) than the cartoonish characters they eventually came to be on the syndicated series Mama’s Family. The piece proved to be so popular that 30 more “Family” sketches appeared over the next four seasons, with such guest stars as Alan Alda and Betty White turning up as members of the extended Harper family.

12. IT WAS BURNETT’S IDEA TO MAKE EUNICE AND HER FAMILY SOUTHERN.

The creators of "The Family" sketch were The Carol Burnett Show staff writers Jenna McMahon and Dick Clair. McMahon hailed from Kansas City, Missouri, and envisioned the Harpers to be of typical Midwestern stock, but as Burnett read the initial script she heard her own Texan and Arkansan family members speaking. She started speaking the lines with a pronounced Southern drawl, and Vicki Lawrence soon followed suit.

13. DICK VAN DYKE WAS A REGULAR FOR A SHORT TIME.

Harvey Korman left The Carol Burnett Show at the end of season 10 to star in his own sitcom on ABC.  (The Harvey Korman Show was cancelled after five episodes.) Dick Van Dyke was brought in as a replacement, but he was never a very good fit. As Burnett commented after the fact, “When Harvey put on a wig and a dress, he became a woman; when Dick Van Dyke did it, he was Dick Van Dyke in a wig and a dress.” Van Dyke wasn’t overjoyed with the job, either; he lived in Arizona at the time and the monthly 4000-mile commute was exhausting. He was released from his contract in November 1977.

14. BURNETT’S “WENT WITH THE WIND” CURTAIN ROD DRESS WAS BOB MACKIE’S BRAINSTORM.

Burnett’s Gone with the Wind parody has made many “funniest shows of all time” lists over the years, and one of the defining moments of the sketch was when Carol (as "Starlett O’Hara”) descends the stairs at Tara wearing the green velvet drapes with the curtain rod still in them and admits, “I saw it in a window and I couldn’t resist.” The original script called for Burnett to have the curtains tossed haphazardly over her shoulders, but Mackie decided that it would be funnier to create an actual dress and leave the hanger intact across her shoulders. He is slightly bitter all these years later that of all his magnificent creations, that “joke” dress has become his signature piece; of all the memorable glamorous gowns he’s created for celebrities over the decades, that curtain rod dress is the one that hangs in the Smithsonian.

15. CONWAY’S FAMOUS “DENTIST” SKIT WAS BASED ON AN ACTUAL INCIDENT.

When Conway was in the Army having some work done on his teeth, the dentist accidentally injected his own thumb with Novocain. Conway exaggerated the experience to hilarious effect in a classic skit that left Harvey Korman struggling to contain his laughter. During a 2013 interview, Conway told Conan O’Brien that Korman actually wet himself from laughing so hard.

16. THERE WAS ONLY ONE CELEBRITY GUEST THAT BURNETT WAS NEVER ABLE TO BOOK.

Over the 11 seasons the show ran, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry did a guest turn, from Steve Martin to Julie Andrews to then-governor Ronald Reagan to Robin Williams to Ethel Merman. The only guest who Burnett dearly wanted to have but never did get was Bette Davis. Davis was willing to appear but demanded more money that the show had budgeted. Joe Hamilton advised his wife that if they gave in to Davis’s demand, it would set an unpleasant precedent.

Additional Sources:
Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, by Vicki Lawrence
This Time Together, by Carol Burnett
Let’s Bump Up the Lights (The Carol Burnett Show DVD extra)

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