Comedian, actress, singer and all-around entertainer Vicki Lawrence, along with her alter-ego Thelma “Mama” Harper, are making their annual Branson appearance next Sunday afternoon at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, which happens to be Mother’s Day.
Remember, this show carries a “PG-13” rating.
“I’m sure there are a lot of husbands that have been dragged to my show that think ‘what in the hell is Vicki Lawrence going to do on stage for 90 minutes by herself ... you’ve lost your mind, Denise,’” Lawrence laughed. “Then Denise says, ‘Dammit Fred, we’re going to go to that show.’ I’m sure that happens all the time, so it’s my goal to make people laugh. People tell me all the time they had no idea I did stand-up comedy. Sitting, standing, it’s all comedy to me.
“I do love going out on Mother’s Day, and of course, ‘Mama’ will have a few words of wisdom for everybody.”
Speaking of “Mama,” Lawrence said she’s more than likely going to be in quite a mood.
“She’s probably a little grumpy because she’s had to spend a lot of time in the suitcase lately waiting for me to get back out on the road,” she laughed. “I haven’t had much time for her at all.”
From 1967 through 1978, Lawrence was a featured performer on “The Carol Burnett Show,” one of the most popular shows of all time. In addition to being a standout performer alongside Burnett, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, Lawrence soon found herself on top of the music charts with the No. 1 song “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” which was penned by Lawrence’s husband at the time, Bobby Russell, in 1973.
She still performs the song in her show.
“If you have a big juggernaut of a hit you have to sing it,” she said. “And what’s really funny is a lot of people still don’t even realize it was me.”
Soon after, the character of “Mama” first appeared on “The Carol Burnett Show.” “Mama” was written with Burnett in mind, but according to Lawrence, Burnett favored the role of “Eunice,” “Mama’s” daughter. Once Burnett decided to take the role of “Eunice,” Lawrence was given a gift, and “Mama’s” popularity soared.
After the “Burnett Show” went off the air in 1978, Lawrence began working on a new show where Mama would be the central character. “Mama’s Family” ran for 130 episodes from 1983-1990. Lawrence stayed on TV with her own talk show, as well as numerous appearances on game shows.
She took a break from the character for nearly 11 years before eventually bringing her back for a “Carol Burnett Reunion Show” in 2001. Her one-woman, two-woman show came the year after, and she’s been touring the country with it for nearly 20 years.
Last year, Lawrence headlined the new Fox show “Cool Kids,” which costars Martin Mull, David Allen Greer and Leslie Jordan.
“We finished season one, and we had a blast, so we’re just waiting now to see if we get picked up for a second season,” she said. “I love all my boys (on the show), and I hope I get to see them again real soon.”
As far as her show next week, Lawrence said the current state of affairs throughout the world make shows like hers that much more relevant.
“Back when we first started doing my show was on the heels of 9/11, and I said to my writing partner, I said ‘we just needed to take everyone away from what’s going on in the world for 90 minutes and just laugh,” Lawrence said. “And I’m, kind of feeling that way again. I mean, you turn the news on and there’s absolutely nothing you want to look at, so I think this show is a great way to maybe get away from it all for 90 minutes, especially on Mother’s Day.
“You know, if we had some mothers in charge, things may be going a little smoother, that’s all I’m going to say (laughs).”
Lawrence opens the show as herself, sharing funny stories about the “Carol Burnett Show,” meeting her husband of more than 40 years, as well as eventful and humorous trips about everyday life. Guests will also be treated to the true story behind, as well as a performance of he No. 1 hit from 1973, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.”
“Mama Harper” takes the stage for the second half, and she usually starts things off with a “Q & A Session,” which includes several of her “most asked questions,” before unleashing on just about every other subject there is.
“It’s hard to be funnier or crazier than what’s going on now,” she laughed. “I try to walk a fine line because ... the whole world has gone ... topsy turvy, and I just want to walk the line where we all just laugh and have lots of fun, and maybe not think about all the craziness going on outside for a minute.”
For tickets and additional information, visit upcloseconcerts.com.