As you dive into the classic realm of The Carol Burnett Show, you’ll discover the iconic ‘Roast of Nora Desmond’ episode. It’s a hearty helping of hilarity that is bound to stir up
fits of laughter.
The episode finds Carol Burnett as the erstwhile silent film star Nora Desmond and Harvey Korman as the director Max Von Stroheim. It also has Vicki Lawrence as comedy actress Phyllis Dillis.
Our comedic journey begins with Phyllis and the show’s host, Jackie King – Show host (Steve Lawrence), who is already on stage, eagerly awaiting their unsuspecting guest, Nora Desmond. Laughter fills the air as Jackie playfully admits to his ignorance of Nora’s faded fame, triggering Phyllis’s comically contagious chuckle.
Enter Harvey Korman, or Max, sporting a comically serious demeanor that only enhances his humor. His thickly accented confusion about the event draws more laughter from the audience and us.
However, the absolute delight is the entrance of the night’s star, Nora Desmond herself. Nora makes a hilarious appearance with her overly dramatic makeup and bold attire, an instant hit with the audience.
Things take a wild turn as Nora and Phyllis, both sporting exaggerated makeup, spot each other and let out screams of surprise. Unphased, Max attempts to smooth over the hilarity, advising Nora to relax and enjoy the roasting session.
As the evening unfolds, the roasting truly begins. Jackie launches the first comedic jab at Nora, triggering Phyllis’s signature hysterical laugh and even a glove slap from the protective Max. This light-hearted exchange leaves the audience in splits and sets the tone for what’s to come.
Then, it’s Phyllis’s turn to toast, or rather roast, Nora. In her signature style, she expresses her appreciation for Nora, hilariously claiming she makes her look great by comparison. Phyllis’s comedic commentary continues to evoke roars of laughter from the audience, especially when she insinuates Nora’s use of ‘prescription underwear.’
A surprised Max is then called to deliver a speech. Despite his apparent reluctance, Max hilariously roasts Nora, causing an uproar of laughter. The climax of the evening arrives when Nora herself is called upon to talk about her career. Her theatrical monologue is a laugh riot, topped off by her referring to herself as a “crazy lady living alone in a mansion on Sunset Boulevard.”
In this unforgettable and beautifully crafted sketch from The Carol Burnett Show, Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Vicki Lawrence shine, delivering a belly-laugh-inducing performance that has stood the test of time.
Nora ends the sketch by slapping a penguin-shaped chopped liver dish onto Max’s coat; you can’t help but laugh along with the audience. The ‘Roast of Nora Desmond’ perfectly illustrates the comedic genius that made this show an enduring classic.