Vicki Lawrence

Last updated
Vicki Lawrence
Vicki Lawrence (cropped).jpg
Lawrence in 2009
Vicki Ann Axelrad

(1949-03-26) March 26, 1949 (age 70)
Inglewood, California, United States
Other namesVicki Lawrence Schultz
Education Morningside High School
Alma mater UCLA
OccupationActress, comedian, singer, dancer, writer
Years active1967–present
Bobby Russell
(m. 1972;div. 1974)

Al Schultz(m. 1974)
Website Official website

Vicki Ann Lawrence (née Axelrad; [1] born March 26, 1949), sometimes credited as Vicki Lawrence Schultz, is an American actress, comedian, and pop music singer known for the many characters she originated on CBS's The Carol Burnett Show , where she appeared from 1967–78, for the entire series run. One such character was "The Family" matriarch Thelma Harper/Mama, the cold, unaffectionate mother of the neurotic, misfortunate, Eunice (Burnett) although Lawrence is 16 years younger than Burnett. Thelma Harper was the central character of the television situation comedy series Mama's Family on NBC and, later, in first-run syndication. She also starred in the Fox sitcom series The Cool Kids .


In 1973, she became a one-hit wonder on the U.S. chart with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia". It reached number one on both the United States and Canada charts. Lawrence has multiple Emmy Award nominations, winning one in 1976. [2]

She is also a multiple Golden Globe nominee, all for The Carol Burnett Show. Lawrence has made numerous post-Mama's Family guest TV show appearances in her famed Thelma Harper/Mama role.

On February 5, 2013, Lawrence appeared as the character in a special sketch for Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday. [3] In addition, she regularly hosts an untelevised stage show, titled Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.

Early life

Lawrence was born Vicki Ann Axelrad in Inglewood, California, [4] the daughter of Anne Alene (née Loyd) and Howard Axelrad, a certified public accountant for Max Factor. [5] The family surname was legally changed to "Lawrence" when Vicki was young. [6] She is a graduate of Morningside High School in Inglewood, class of 1967. Lawrence had originally planned on being a dental hygienist. She attended UCLA while on The Carol Burnett Show, and changed her major to theater arts, but dropped out after two years. [6]

In high school, she auditioned for and got into the musical group The Young Americans. She stayed with the group almost until the end of high school. By being with the group, she gained experience from touring, performing at the Oscars, coming in contact with noteworthy performers such as Johnny Mathis and Louis Armstrong, and performing on The Andy Williams Show . [6]

In her senior year, she entered the Miss Fireball of Inglewood contest for the local firefighter's ball. A reporter for a local newspaper wrote a story about the contest and stated that Lawrence bore a striking resemblance to a young Carol Burnett. An avid fan letter-writer, Lawrence's mother urged her to write a letter, which Lawrence did, including the newspaper article.

After receiving the letter, Burnett found Lawrence's father's name in the phone book, called him, and said she would go to see the Miss Fireball contest. Lawrence won the contest and Burnett was called to the stage to crown her. Coincidentally, Burnett was looking for an actress to play her younger sister on her upcoming show. After a few months and auditions, Lawrence got the part, specifically for playing Chrissy in the "Carol and Sis" sketches. [6]

After Lawrence was given the job on The Carol Burnett Show, both Burnett and Harvey Korman took her under their wings. Korman taught her various sketch comedy skills, such as listening not just for a cue line, and also coached her in other areas, such as speaking in different accents. Lawrence has credited Korman and Burnett with being her mentors, and has referred to her experience on the show as the "Harvard school of comedy". Lawrence has stated that she learned show business from Burnett and looked up to her very much, and that the two share a very close friendship. [6]



On The Carol Burnett Show, L-R: Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, and Dinah Shore in the sketch "Went with the Wind!", 1977. Carol Burnett Vicki Lawrence Dinah Shore Carol Burnett Show 1977.JPG
On The Carol Burnett Show , L-R: Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, and Dinah Shore in the sketch "Went with the Wind!", 1977.
Vicki Lawrence as Thelma "Mama" Harper, 2009 Thelma Harper.jpg
Vicki Lawrence as Thelma "Mama" Harper, 2009

As a comedian and actress, Lawrence is known for her work on The Carol Burnett Show, of which she was a part from 1967 to 1978. She was the only cast member, except for Burnett herself, who stayed on the show for the entire 11 seasons. After The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, Lawrence and her husband Al Schultz moved with their children to Maui, Hawaii, but after a few years, returned to Los Angeles, where they have remained.

Her portrayal of the Mama character on The Carol Burnett Show's "The Family" sketches was so popular that NBC subsequently created the sitcom Mama's Family , elaborating on the Mama character. (Burnett reprised the Eunice Higgins character for the sitcom from time to time.) The series ran from 1983 to 1985 on NBC; after its cancellation from NBC, it was renewed from 1986 to 1990 in first-run syndication. The show was more successful in the renewed version. She also reprised the Mama character on stage for Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.

Lawrence has made appearances on other programs, such as the sitcoms Laverne & Shirley , Major Dad , Roseanne , Hannah Montana , and Yes, Dear . Between the NBC and syndication runs of Mama's Family , Lawrence starred in the 1985 comedy pilot Anything for Love, which aired as a special on CBS that summer and co-starred Lauren Tewes and Rebeca Arthur. Lawrence has also appeared with Burnett, Korman, and Tim Conway in the Burnett show retrospectives that were broadcast in 1993, 2001, and 2004. Lawrence played Sister Mary Paul (Sister Amnesia) in the TV special based on Nunsense Jamboree that originally aired on TNN in 1998.

Lawrence played Mamaw Stewart (the mother of Robby Ray Stewart and grandmother of Jackson and Miley Stewart) in the hit Disney series Hannah Montana alongside Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley Cyrus.

Lawrence played as Mama in an Ohio commercial, promoting a constitutional amendment that would permit casino gambling in Ohio. Lawrence played Dan's old high-school flame, Phyllis, in an episode of Roseanne. She also appeared in a special celebrity-edition episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link . Playing for a charity, she made it to the final two, but ended up losing to Ed Begley, Jr.


As a singer, Lawrence got her start as one of the scores of hopefuls on the syndicated Johnny Mann's Stand Up And Cheer program. However, she is most known for her number-one hit, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", a song written by her first husband Bobby Russell, which was released on Bell Records in November 1972. It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 1973. [7] During the last episode of the sixth season of The Carol Burnett Show (March 24, 1973), Lawrence received her gold record by surprise from Carol Burnett. Her first LP, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia , was issued soon after the single went gold. The song was re-recorded by Reba McEntire for her 1991 album For My Broken Heart. McEntire released the track as a single to country radio in 1992 and it peaked at #12 on the country chart, aided in part by a highly cinematic music video.

"He Did With Me", Lawrence's followup to "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", reached number 75 in the United States, although it reached the top 20 of the adult contemporary music charts and also became her biggest hit in Australia, peaking at number one there in November 1973. She followed it up there with "Ships in the Night" (1974). In the fall of 1975, Lawrence managed one last minor U.S. chart entry on the Private Stock label with "The Other Woman" (number 81).

In 1974, she recorded her second LP for Bell Records, Ships in the Night. The label was in the process of being bought out by Arista, and the LP was not released in the U.S. The LP was, however, released in Australia, where she continued to have chart success. Lawrence's first two LPs were released as a single CD with bonus tracks on April 1, 2014, by Real Gone Music.

She released a disco album entitled Newborn Woman late in 1979. The album produced the minor disco hit "Don't Stop the Music".

Hosting and other work

As an emcee, she hosted the daytime NBC version of the game show Win, Lose or Draw , as well as an unsold pilot for Mark Goodson Productions, 1990's Body Talk, and has also appeared often as a popular panelist on such game shows as Match Game , Password , Password Plus , Super Password , and various incarnations of the Pyramid game show, where she was known for verbally sparring with host Dick Clark on numerous occasions. She also appeared on the 1986-89 version of Hollywood Squares , where she appeared both as herself and in character as Thelma "Mama" Harper. Lawrence was nominated a number of times for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host for the eponymous Vicki! (1992–1994), but the show ended after two seasons amid creative battles with her syndicator. In 1997, she hosted Fox After Breakfast, which was renamed The Vicki Lawrence Show, [8] but was cancelled five weeks later due to low ratings. [9]

She tours the country with her "two-woman" show with the first half as herself and the second half done as Mama. She can also be seen on TV in an infomercial for the Big Boss Grill. She is also known for her voice-over work as Flo on the animated series Hermie and Friends .

In 2018, Lawrence was seen promoting The Carol Burnett Show and other classic television series on the MeTV television network.

Personal life

Lawrence was married to singer and songwriter Bobby Russell from 1972 to 1974. Lawrence's second husband is Hollywood make-up artist Al Schultz, to whom she has been married since November 16, 1974, and with whom she has two children, Courtney Allison Schultz (born May 5, 1975) and Garrett Lawrence Schultz (born July 3, 1977).

Lawrence and her family appeared on Celebrity Family Feud in July 2015. [10]

Lawrence was diagnosed with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) around 2011. [11] She teamed with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and has become the spokesperson for the campaign CIU & You. [12]

She appeared on The Doctors in 2015 to relay her story and talk about CIU and promote the CIU & You campaign. [13]


Selected film and television roles
1967–1978 The Carol Burnett Show Various charactersRegular cast member

Won – Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program – 1976
Nominated – Primetime Emmy award for Best Supporting Actress in Comedy-Variety, Variety or Music (1967)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (1975, 1977)
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1973, 1975, 1977)

1975–1991 The (New) $25,000 Pyramid Herself (celebrity contestant)90 episodes
1976–1991 The $25,000 Pyramid Herself (celebrity contestant)7 episodes
1978 The Eddie Capra Mysteries Eve Randall1 episode
1978–1986 The Love Boat Various roles6 episodes
1979 Carol Burnett & Company Various charactersRegular cast member
1979 Laverne & Shirley Sgt. Alvinia T. Plout5 episodes
1979-1981 Password Plus Herself (celebrity contestant)49 episodes
1982 Eunice Thelma Harper TV movie
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (1980–81)
1983–1990 Mama's Family Thelma HarperStarring role
1984–88 Super Password Herself (celebrity contestant)44 episodes
1986 Murder She Wrote Jackie Mackay1 episode
1987–89 Win, Lose or Draw HostNominated – Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host (1988, 1989)
1991 Major Dad "Pookie" Pond1 episode
1992–94 Vicki! HostNominated – Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host (1993, 1994, 1995)
1993 Roseanne Phyllis Zimmer1 episode
1994 Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never Die Nora KingsleyTV movie
1996 Diagnosis Murder Kitty Lynn1 episode
1997Fox After Breakfast: The Vicki Lawrence ShowHost
2001–05 Yes, Dear Natalie Warner7 episodes
2002–04 Hollywood Squares Herself/Thelma Harper (celebrity panelist)45 episodes
2006–2011 Hannah Montana Ruthie "Mamaw" Stewart 5 episodes
2012 RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Herself/Thelma Harper1 episode
2015 Celebrity Family Feud Herself1 episode
2017 Great News Angie Deltaliano4 episodes
201819 The Cool Kids MargaretStarring role



YearAlbumChart PositionsCatalog #
U.S. Can.
1973 The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia 5131Bell 1120
1974Ships in the NightSOSL10106
1979Newborn WomanWindMill L26


YearSongChart PositionsAlbum
U.S. U.S. AC U.S. Country Can.Can. ACCan. CountryAustralia NZ
1969"And I'll Go"
b/w "The Whole State Of Alabama"
Non-album tracks
1970"No, No"
b/w "Lincoln Street Chapel"
1973"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"
b/w "Dime A Dance"
163612252018The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia
"He Did With Me"
b/w "Mr. Allison"
1974"Ships in the Night"
b/w "Sensual Man" (from The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia)
49718Ships In The Night
"Mama's Gonna Make it All Better"
b/w "Cameo"
"Old Home Movies"
b/w "The Light On The Back Porch Door" (from Ships In The Night)
U.K. release only
Non-album tracks
1975"The Other Woman"
b/w "Cameo"
1976"There's a Gun Still Smokin' in Nashville"
b/w "Mama's Gonna Make It All Better"
"Love In The Hot Afternoon"
b/w "The Other Man I've Been Slipping Around With"
1977"Hollywood Seven"
B-side unknown
1979"Don't Stop The Music"
b/w "Newborn Woman"
Newborn Woman
"Your Lies"
b/w "Star Love"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


Related Research Articles

Carol Burnett American actress, comedienne, and singer

Carol Creighton Burnett is an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer, whose career spans seven decades of television. She is best known for her groundbreaking comedy variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, originally aired on CBS. It was the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman. She has achieved success on stage, television and film in varying genres including dramatic and comedic roles. She has also appeared on various talk shows and as a panelist on game shows.

Tim Conway American actor and comedian

Thomas Daniel "Tim" Conway was an American actor, comedian, writer, and director. From 1966 to 2012 he appeared in more than 20 TV shows, TV series and films. Among his more notable roles, he portrayed the inept Ensign Parker in the 1960s World War II TV situation comedy McHale's Navy, was a regular cast member (1975–1978) on the TV comedy The Carol Burnett Show where he portrayed his recurrent iconic characters Mister Tudball, the Oldest Man and the Dumb Private, co-starred with Don Knotts in several films (1979–80), was the title character in the Dorf series of eight sports comedy direct-to-video films (1987–1996), and provided the voice of Barnacle Boy in the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–2012). Twice, in 1970 and in 1980–1981, he had his own TV series.

<i>The Carol Burnett Show</i> Television series

The Carol Burnett Show is an American variety/sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner. Original episodes ran from 1967 to 1978. In 1975, frequent guest star Tim Conway became a regular after Waggoner left the series. In 1977, Dick Van Dyke replaced Korman but it was agreed that it was not a match and he left after 10 episodes. The show originally ran on CBS from September 11, 1967, to March 29, 1978, for 279 episodes, and again with nine episodes in the fall of 1991. The series originated in CBS Television City's Studio 33, and won 25 primetime Emmy Awards, was ranked number 16 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002, and in 2007 was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Best TV Shows of All Time.

<i>Mamas Family</i> American television sitcom

Mama's Family is an American sitcom television series starring Vicki Lawrence as Thelma Harper (Mama). The series is a spin-off of a recurring series of comedy sketches called "The Family" featured on The Carol Burnett Show (1974–78) and Carol Burnett & Company (1979). The sketches led to the made-for-TV movie Eunice, and finally the television series.

Harvey Korman American actor and comedian

Harvey Herschel Korman was an American actor and comedian, who performed in television and film productions. His big break was being a featured performer on CBS' The Danny Kaye Show. But he is best remembered for his performances on the sketch comedy series The Carol Burnett Show for which he won four Emmy Awards as well as his partnership with Tim Conway. Korman also appeared in several comedy films by Mel Brooks.

"As the Stomach Turns" is a series of comedy sketches parodying the soap opera As the World Turns featured on The Carol Burnett Show, with one installment airing on Carol Burnett & Company. The sketch was created by show writers Kenny Solms and Gail Parent. The Carol Burnett Show introduced the series during its first season in 1967–68 and continued to air new installments for the remainder of its 11-season run, through its final season in 1977–78. However, the final installment of "As the Stomach Turns" would not air until September 8, 1979, on a different four-week summer series titled Carol Burnett & Company. This was the only installment of "As the Stomach Turns" that did not air on The Carol Burnett Show which had completed its run almost a year and a half earlier on March 29, 1978.

Thelma Harper Fictional main character played by Vicki Lawrence

Thelma Mae Harper, also known as Mama, is a fictional character played by American actress Vicki Lawrence. She is a senior citizen who has lived in an unspecified part in the Southern United States for her entire life which is evident by the southern drawl of her speech and her customs. She is an exaggerated version of a prototype middle twentieth century lower middle class grandmother in the United States South. Vicki Lawrence is the actress who originated the Mama character, which first appeared in "The Family" sketches on The Carol Burnett Show that aired on CBS from 1967 until 1978. In 1982, Eunice was a made-for-TV movie based on "The Family" sketches characters. Mama's Family, and finally in the ongoing Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show. With Lawrence continuing to play the role into the present day, the "Mama" character has made numerous other post-television show appearances, such as on Hollywood Squares; The Talk; "Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular" (2007); "Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday" ; The Queen Latifah Show etc.

Karin Maria Argoud is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Sonja Harper in the American sitcom Mama's Family for its first two seasons.

Eunice Harper Higgins

Eunice Higgins is the main character in the comedy sketch The Family played by Carol Burnett. Eunice was also featured in her eponymous CBS made-for-TV movie, which aired in 1982. The film starred Carol Burnett as Eunice; Ken Berry as Eunice's well-to-do brother, Philip ; Harvey Korman as Eunice's husband, Ed Higgins; Betty White as Eunice's sister, Ellen Harper-Jackson; Vicki Lawrence as Eunice's "Mama", Thelma Harper; and Dick Clair as the voice of Eunice's father, Carl Harper. The film takes the Harper family on a 23-year journey.

Carol Burnett & Company is an American four-episode summer variety/sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, Craig Richard Nelson and Kenneth Mars. The series was a continuation of The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) and aired on ABC for four consecutive weeks on Saturdays from August 18 to September 8, 1979.

Dorothy Van American actress

Dorothy Van was an American stage and TV actress who is best remembered for her comedic role as Aunt Effie Harper on the 1980s situation comedy Mama's Family.

The Family (sketch) series of comedy sketches featured on The Carol Burnett Show

"The Family" is a series of comedy sketches featured on The Carol Burnett Show, with one installment airing on Carol Burnett & Company. The Carol Burnett Show debuted the skit series during its seventh season in 1973–74. It would air new installments of the skit for the remainder of its 11-season run, through its final season in 1977–78. However, the final installment of "The Family" wouldn't air until September 8, 1979 on a different four-week summer series titled Carol Burnett & Company. This was the only installment of "The Family" that did not air on The Carol Burnett Show.The Carol Burnett Show had completed its run almost a year and a half earlier on March 29, 1978. Altogether, there were 31 installments of "The Family" sketches.

Went with the Wind!

"Went with the Wind!" is a comedy sketch featured on the eighth episode of the tenth season of The Carol Burnett Show. It originally aired in the United States on CBS on November 13, 1976, and is a parody of the 1939 American historical drama film Gone with the Wind. The sketch was written by two young writers, Rick Hawkins and Liz Sage. In 2009, TV Guide ranked the sketch #53 on its list of "Top 100 Episodes of All Time".

Eunice is a 1982 American made-for-television comedy-drama film starring Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry and Betty White which is based on characters of a recurring series of comedy sketches called "The Family" featured on The Carol Burnett Show (1974–78) and Carol Burnett & Company (1979). The film was broadcast as a "CBS Special Presentation" on March 15, 1982 and served as a precursor to the spin-off television sitcom Mama's Family. It was directed by Roger Beatty and Harvey Korman.

Mary Virginia Skinner, known professionally as Jenna McMahon, was an American writer, producer, actress and comedian. She was best known for her Emmy Award-winning work as a writer on the variety/sketch comedy program The Carol Burnett Show and for co-creating the television sitcoms It's a Living, The Facts of Life, and Mama's Family along with her writing partner Dick Clair.

The Harvey Korman Show is an American sitcom television series starring Harvey Korman, Christine Lahti, Barry Van Dyke and Milton Selzer that aired for five episodes on ABC from January 31 to August 3, 1978.

"A Special Evening with Carol Burnett" is the two-hour series finale of the American variety/sketch comedy television show The Carol Burnett Show. It is the 279th overall episode of the show and the 24th episode of the eleventh and final season which aired on CBS on Wednesday, March 29, 1978 from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. EST.

The Oldest Man (character)

The Oldest Man, sometimes referred to as Duane Toddleberry, is a recurring character from sketches in comedy variety series The Carol Burnett Show. The character was created by Tim Conway during his run on the show and is noted for Conway's performance of slapstick and ad-libbed humor. The character has been revisited in Conway's live comedy tour with fellow actor Harvey Korman from 2005 until Korman's death in 2008, twice on The Queen Latifah Show between 2014-2015, in a sketch in the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and also in the collector's edition DVD titled Together Again, which includes new sketches starring Tim Conway and Harvey Korman in their classic roles from The Carol Burnett Show.

Vicki! was a syndicated talk show hosted by actress and Carol Burnett Show alumna Vicki Lawrence from 1992 to 1994. The show earned a number of Daytime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Talk Show Host; however, it ended after two seasons, mainly because of creative disagreements between the host and her syndicator, Group W.


  1. "California Birth Index, 1905-1995". or empty |url= (help)
  2. "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  3. "Video Gallery". NBC. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  4. "VICKI LAWRENCE booking – Celebrity Actors, Comedians – Corporate Entertainment Booking". 1949-03-26. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  5. "Vicki Lawrence Biography". Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Vicki Lawrence". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  7. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp.  314–315. ISBN   0-214-20512-6.
  8. Levin, Mark. "Fox remakes 'Breakfast'". Variety. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  9. Littlton, Cynthia. "Fox axes 'Vicki'; ankles ayem". Variety. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  10. "Celebrity Family Feud:Joey Lawrence vs. Mario Lopez/Ed Asner vs. Vicki Lawrence". Retrieved 2015-08-02.
  11. "CIU&You". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  12. "Comedienne, Actress Vicki Lawrence Teams Up with AAFA To Talk About Chronic Skin Condition". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  14. "Marc Eliot: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  15. "Keynote Speaker: Monty Aidem". Retrieved 2012-11-11.