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Carol Burnett is turning 90 in star-studded style.
In honor of the comedy icon’s big birthday, NBC is hosting Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter and Love, a special featuring music, comedy and video highlights from Burnett’s one-of-a-kind career. Julie Andrews, Cher, Amy Poehler, Lily Tomlin, Steve Carell, Laura Dern, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Charlize Theron, Bob Odenkirk, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Bernadette Peters, Katy Perry and Billy Porter are just some of the many celebrity friends and fans taking part in the show.
Though airing on Wednesday, the special was taped in early March, where Burnett expressed her thrill at celebrating her birthday in this way.
“Unbelievable, I’m gobsmacked by it,” Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s going to be a wonderful evening — it’s not a birthday party and it’s not a roast, it’s going to be a variety show. There’s going to be live entertainment, 19-piece orchestra, I mean it’s so exciting.”
On the red carpet ahead of the taping, Burnett’s friends reflected on their relationships with the star and what makes her so worth celebrating. Close pal Andrews joked, “She brings out in the best in me and I think I bring out the worst in her, I don’t know why. It’s the opposite of what you would imagine.”
The two first met at a Chinese restaurant in New York City when they were invited by separate friends and promised they would adore each other: “When we met, no one else got a word in edgewise. We bonded like that and it has never changed,” Andrews continued, noting that today they catch up at dinners and “whatever comes up for us and whenever we can get together, which is not as often as I would like. But it’s a never-ending friendship, it just picks up where it left off.”
Cher told reporters about when she appeared on The Carol Burnett Show, remembering being at the CBS studio and “I would sneak out through the fence to go to the farmer’s market and we played practical jokes on each other. It was just easy and fun and that’s all we wanted to do.”
Jane Lynch recalled how she and Burnett first worked together on an independent film and later on Glee, saying upon first meeting, “I was firmly in love, she’s exactly the person that you hope she would be.” The two now live in the same town and regularly get together, as Lynch said she learned from Burnett that, “The heart stays open, and the generosity stays active and you’re happy that way. Then you’re not on the dark side of stuff, she just doesn’t even go there.”
And Kristen Chenoweth remembered meeting Burnett for the first time backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, where Burnett had come to see her perform. “I just immediately pratfalled because I knew I had to do something to impress her,” the singer joked. “And I said, ‘I had to do something to impress you’ and she said, ‘After that two-hour show?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ She said, ‘You’re mine, you’re mine,’ and that’s how we became friends.” As for the lesson Chenoweth has taken from Burnett, it’s that “making people laugh is not easy, but when it happens it’s like lightning in a bottle, so special.”
Michelle Obama, Oprah, Dolly Parton, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Hader, Vicki Lawrence, Allison Janney, Sofía Vergara, Marisa Tomei, Rhea Seehorn, Vince Gilligan, Lisa Kudrow, Darren Criss, Sutton Foster, Susan Lucci, Aileen Quinn, Bob Mackie and Melissa Rauch also take part in the special, either in person or via video message.
Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter and Love airs on NBC on Wednesday and will start streaming Thursday on Peacock.
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