Carol + 2: The Original Queens of Comedy DVD Review: A Look into a Kinder, Gentler Era in TV Comedy

Iconic comediennes Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball star in the 1966 TV special, which gives viewers a glimpse of what to expect a year later on The Carol Burnett Show.
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The Carol Burnett Show, one of the most beloved variety shows of the late 20th century, debuted in 1967 and ran through 1978. Burnett’s early 1960s specials were the testing ground for the long running series. The Carol + 2 TV special aired on the CBS Television network, on March 22, 1966. Carol + 2 co-starred Carol’s precursor as TV’s first lady of comedy, Lucille Ball and Broadway actor Zero Mostel of Fiddler on the Roof fame. (Another special, co-starring Julie Andrews, aired in 1963.)

In the mid-60s, before Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and all of the anything-goes comediennes of today, there were only two female comedians with any stature - Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett (and Joan Rivers, if you count stand-ups). Now in those days, the mere fact that a female comedian existed, much less got top billing, was revolutionary. 

Carol + 2 has the tried and true variety-show format - the guest introductions at the beginning of the show, sketches ending with the actors breaking out in song near the end, and cheesy intros between sketches. The skits are simple and very much of their time, with an emphasis on innocuous everyday life situations.

The sketches feature Carol and Zero as a combative married couple; Lucy and Carole as two sisters arguing over a non-verbal baby, and Carol as a lonely seamstress. Burnett puts her patented loose-limbs to work as wacky woman visiting a psychiatrist to complain about her brother.  It’s amazing to watch Burnett’s grasp of physical comedy, which is on display as she flops around on the couch during this sketch.  Carole and Lucy ham it up in the last sketch, on the Charwomen sketch, doing imaginary show biz wheeling dealing as they (kind of) clean the talent agency office.  

The DVD also features the 1972 made-for-TV movie, Once Upon a Mattress, the musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea. It stars Carol as Princess Winifred the Woebegone, a role she played on Broadway. Jack Gilford co-starred with Burnett on Broadway as King Sexitmus, and he reprises his role here. Ken Berry, Bernadette Peters, Wally Cox, and future Carol Burnett Show cast member Lyle Waggoner also star. And the commercials are intact, including Lady Grecian Formula and Carmelita Pope for Pam cooking spray. There’s also a clip of the “Charwoman” character’s first appearance from the 1963 special, and a few short reminiscences from Burnett about her first meeting with Lucy, the origin of the “Charwoman” character, and other subjects.

Carol + 2 is one of those TV gems some people remember vaguely, but this DVD gives Boomers a chance to relive some childhood memories of sitting in front of TV with a Swanson TV dinner (or some YooHoo) and watching Carol with Mom and Dad. For the younger set, it’s a look into a kinder, gentler era in TV comedy. 

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