Carol Burnett started making her own variety show when she was just a kid. She'd go to the movies every week with her grandmother, then would act out the scenes with her friends when she got home.
But when Burnett first wanted to bring her musical variety show to TV, she was told that such programs were strictly the purview of men.
"The network didn't want me to do it," she said, remembering being told that "comedy-variety is a man's game."
But Burnett changed the rules. She accepted a lifetime achievement award Saturday from the Screen Actors Guild for her six decades on screen, including her groundbreaking namesake variety show, which ran for 11 years. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who presented Burnett with the honors, credited her with helping to raise them.
Poehler said their moms taught them 90 percent of what they needed to know — "the other 10 percent was Carol."
Burnett talked about how seeing all those movies with her grandmother shaped her sensibilities and career aspirations. She thanked her many colleagues on both sides of the camera.
"I was able to do what I did because of what they brought to the table," she said. "Not only their talents, but their love."
Burnett left the stage with her signature farewell, saying, "I'm so glad we had this time together" as she tugged on her ear.
Talking with reporters backstage, the 82-year-old entertainer said she longs for the sitcoms of old, like "MASH," ''Mary Tyler Moore" and "All in the Family."
"It was all clever and it holds up today," she said. "There was no pandering to base instincts... Some of the sitcoms I see make me feel like they might be being written by teenage boys in the locker room. I'd like to see cleverness come back."
But Burnett said she's delighted by the number of women in comedy — not only those on camera, but women writing and running their own shows.
"It's a beautiful way things have changed," she said. "And I think they're going to get better."
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