It's been a depressing week for fans of classic television. We learned yesterday of the death of comedian Harvey Korman, the tall, versatile and always magnificent supporting player probably best-loved for his years co-starring on various versions of The Carol Burnett Show. After several years in Hollywood making the rounds as an actor on various early 1960s-era series like Hennessey, The Untouchables, Surfside 6, Perry Mason, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, Perry Mason, Route 66, Dennis the Menace, The Lucy Show, The Jack Benny Show, and so many others -- be sure to check out his IMDB credits for the whole impressive list -- he got his big break when he became a regular on The Danny Kaye Show, appearing as Kaye's second banana in assorted sketches. When Kaye's show ended after four years, Korman made a smooth transition to working with Carol Burnett, and the rest is television history. (There is an incredible and long interview with Korman about his television career here on YouTube, from the Archive of American Television.)
In addition to his years with Burnett, which led to a continuing working relationship with fellow comic Tim Conway in projects other than the Burnett show (check out this amazing set of three interviews with Korman and Conway about their long collaboration), Korman frequently appeared on the big screen in movies such as George Axelrod's satiric Lord Love a Duck, Three Bites of the Apple, Herbie Goes Bananas, and of course he was a favorite of Mel Brooks, starring in several of the director/writer's best efforts including Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety. Korman had a short-lived eponymous show of his own in 1977, and continued to be a frequent TV guest star on series like The Love Boat, Ellen, Diagnosis Murder, and ER, in addition to doing voice work on popular animated series The Flintstones, Garfield and Friends, The Wild Thornberrys, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and many more.
What better way to appreciate Korman's contributions to television comedy than by watching a few of his bits, starting with this sketch from The Danny Kaye Show.
And here's a bit from with Carol Burnett as they play "The Old Folks":
And here's Korman and Conway together in their famous "Dentist" sketch:
And a fan put together a nice montage set to the song "Put On a Happy Face" which highlights Korman's comic career:
The really bad thing about losing somebody like this is that you realize you've taken him for granted, probably all these years, assuming he'd always be around, making comedy for us to enjoy. At least we have DVDs and video (copious amounts of his material on YouTube, so far at least!) and those hours of Harvey Korman will be a legacy that will surely go on.