Vicki Lawrence is an American actress, comedienne, and singer, who was frequently a game show panelist in the 1970s and 1980s. She is best known for her co-starring role on The Carol Burnett Show, alongside Carol Burnett, from 1967 to 1978, and as the sharp-tongued matriarch, Thelma Harper (the main character on Mama's Family, airing from 1983 to 1990, which was spun off from The Carol Burnett Show's The Family sketches). She has also been credited as Vicki Lawrence Schultz.
As a comedienne and actress, Lawrence is best 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 eleven seasons. Lawrence's ascension to become part of the Burnett show is part of Hollywood legend; she was hired for the show on the basis of a letter she had sent to Burnett and the producers, with a photograph of Lawrence that clearly showed her resemblance to Burnett. Despite her beginner's status, Lawrence proved to be a valuable part of the comedic team on the show, and played many memorable characters, particularly Thelma Harper (a.k.a., "Mama") in the recurring "Family" sketches. It was decided that Lawrence only needed a grey-blue wig and body padding to transform her into "Mama." Viewers didn't notice or care that no make-up was used to make her appear older.
Her portrayal of the "Mama" character was so popular that NBC created a sitcom, Mama's Family, based on characters from the skit. (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. She has also appeared with Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway in the Burnett show retrospectives that were broadcast in 1993, 2001 and 2004.
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