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I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together (In Memory of Harvey Korman)

May 30, 2008

It really is a sad day for those of us lucky enough to have watched THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, or really appreciate the wonderfully silly Mel brooks classic BLAZING SADDLES.  Harvey Korman, the great comic actor died today at the age of 81.

I guess you could say that I’ve been watching Harvey’s work my whole life, even if I didn’t know it.  He was, after all, the voice of the alien Gazoo on THE FLINTSTONES.  Of course, THE FLINTSTONES was essential viewing for me as a kid, and even now that I’m older, I’m much more aware of some of the subtle humor and popular culture references that made the show a hit.  I’ll always remember Harvey’s portrayal of Gazoo as the bemused observer of modern Stone Age Life.

Then came CAROL BURNETT.  I could write 10,000 words alone on the memorable moments from the show involving Harvey breaking up on camera.  It became a trademark of this great variety show.  Of course, loyal fans and true know who could get Harvey going better than anyone, and that was Tim Conway.  Just watch the video of Harvey at the mercy of Tim’s inept dentist.  Harvey is helpless as Tim goes for the biggest laugh he can get.  Nevertheless, my favorite Tim and Harvey moments will always be when Tim was playing the Old Man character complete with the shuffle walk, and white fright wig.  The best of these moments came when Sir Laurence Olivier was in the audience, and Harvey accidentally mooned him in a scene in which Tim’s Old Man was a tailor.

Then came Harvey in BLAZING SADDLES as Hedy Lamarr (“That’s HEADLY!”).  I watch this movie mainly occasionally, but when I do, Harvey never fails to deliver the laughs.  I always crack up during the scene in which he’s hiring bad guys to destroy the town.  First he chews out one bandit for having gum in line.  Then for an encore, he chews out another one for saying “We’ll head them off at the pass!” (“I HATE that cliché!”).  But that’s nothing compared to the chase through the movie lot near the end.

Here’s another memory of Tim and Harvey I had almost forgotten about.  They did a series of commercials together for a breakfast cereal called FRUIT AND FIBRE (sic).  One of these ads I will never forget.  The ad in question had our boys discussing the correct pronucnciation of FIBRE>  Tim got Harvey big time by insisting that because of the way the word was spelled, it should be pronounced FEE-bray.  I wonder if the ad is on YouTube.  If it is, watch it, and watch the chemistry at work.

Well, Harvey, I just want to say “Thank You” for giving me many chances to laugh as a child and as an adult.  I promise you will not be forgotten soon.  Carol’s signature song seems all too poignant and painful today.

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