Harvey Korman had one of the best sneers in the business. The comic actor, who died yesterday at 81, fashioned an entire performance out of that sneer, his delightfully hissable villain
Hedy Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. That was probably the role he’ll be remembered for most (here’s a clip of it, with some brief NSFW language), though he did similarly hilarious, apoplectic work in other Brooks movies. But his richest legacy is surely the 10 years he spent on The Carol Burnett Show, where Korman, Burnett, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence created sparkling sketch comedy. Korman specialized in prissy, vain, imperious authority figures (for whom that sneer came in handy, as did his excellent slow burn), but he had plenty of other colors in his palette as well. He and Conway shared a special chemistry (they spent much of the last decade or so touring in a live show together), with Korman often toning down his broad antics to play Conway’s second banana. (Watch his peerless straight-man work in this sketch with Conway, in which Korman gets laughs by doing almost nothing.) And he could do rough-hewn and loud-mouthed, too, as in his spoof of Robert Shaw’s salty shark hunter in this uproarious Jaws parody.
I was sad, of course, to hear of Korman’s passing, but there are worse ways to spend a morning than watching YouTube clips of Korman’s work and laughing out loud.