When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler paid tribute to Carol Burnett with the presentation of the lifetime achievement award at the 2016 SAG Awards, it was clear that the Saturday Night Live alums owed a debt to Burnett, who starred in her own hilarious variety show in the 1960s and ’70s. But backstage, Burnett pointed to another queen of comedy who paved the path for her: Lucille Ball.
Asked about the relationship she had with Ball, Burnett recounted the first time they met: backstage at Burnett’s breakout Off Broadway show, Once Upon a Mattress (which later earned Burnett a Tony nomination after it shifted to Broadway.)
“I peeked out of the curtains and there was this orange-red hair in the second row, and I was really nervous,” Burnett remembered. “And after the show she came back to my funky little dressing room Off Broadway with a coil that came out of the couch, and she sat and talked to me for about 25 minutes, and she called me ‘kid’ because she was 22 years older than I.
“And just as she was leaving, she said, ‘Kid, if you ever need me for anything, give me a call.'”
RELATED VIDEO: Burnett talks to EW about her relationship with Ball
Ball stuck to her word when Burnett asked her to guest on her CBS comedy special Carol + 2. When a very nervous Burnett asked, Ball cut her off and simply said: “When do you want me?”
Their relationship wasn’t strictly professional. Ball planned a black-tie baby shower for Burnett, where the former’s husband Gary Morton opened gifts and performed comedy bits on them. “It was one of the funniest evenings ever,” Burnett recalled.
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The most poignant memory came the day Ball died, which was Burnett’s 56th birthday. “She would always send me flowers on my birthday,” Burnett said. “That afternoon, I got flowers from her that said, ‘Happy birthday, kid.'”
See the full list of SAG Awards winners here.