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Vicki Lawrence
Lawrence in 2009
Vicki Ann Axelrad

(1949-03-26) March 26, 1949 (age 74)
Other namesVicki Lawrence Schultz
Occupation(s)Actress, comedian, singer
Years active1967–present
(m. 1972; div. 1974)
Al Schultz
(m. 1974)
Children2 Edit this at Wikidata

Vicki Lawrence (born March 26, 1949),[1] sometimes credited as Vicki Lawrence Schultz, is an American actress, comedian, and singer. She is best known for her character Mama (Thelma Harper). Lawrence originated multitudes of characters beyond Mama on CBS's The Carol Burnett Show from 1967 to 1978, the variety show's entire series run.

The success of The Family skits eventually spun off into Lawrence's own television sitcom, Mama's Family, her character becoming the focal point and Mama's traits expanding and evolving dramatically. Continuing Mama's evolution, Lawrence has hosted an untelevised stand-up comedy routine since 2001, "Vicki and Mama: A Two Woman Show." Moreover, Lawrence has made numerous post-Mama's Family guest TV show appearances in her famed Mama role.

In 1973, Lawrence became a one-hit wonder singer, landing on the U.S. chart with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia". It reached number one on both the United States and Canada charts. She also released an album on Bell Records. Lawrence has multiple Emmy Award nominations, winning one in 1976.[2] She is also a multiple Golden Globe nominee, all for The Carol Burnett Show. She also made several guest appearances in the Disney Channel sitcom Hannah Montana. Most recently, Lawrence starred in the Fox sitcom series The Cool Kids from 2018 to 2019.

Early life

Lawrence was born Vicki Ann Axelrad in Inglewood, California,[1][3] the daughter of Anne Alene (née Loyd) and Howard Axelrad, a certified public accountant for Max Factor.[citation needed] Vicki's paternal grandfather, Simon Axelrad, was an Austrian Jewish immigrant, and Vicki's paternal grandmother, Anna Irmas, was born in Illinois, to German Jewish parents. Vicki's father was raised in Christian Science. Her mother was also Jewish. The family surname was legally changed to "Lawrence" when Vicki was young.[4] She is a graduate of Morningside High School in Inglewood, class of 1967. Lawrence had originally planned on being a dental hygienist. She attended UCLA while on The Carol Burnett Show, and changed her major to theater arts, but dropped out after two years.[4]

In high school, she auditioned for and got into the musical group The Young Americans. She stayed with the group almost until the end of high school. By being with the group, she gained experience from touring, performing at the Oscars, coming in contact with noteworthy performers such as Johnny Mathis and Louis Armstrong, and performing on The Andy Williams Show.[4]

In her senior year, she entered the Miss Fireball of Inglewood contest for the local firefighter's ball. A reporter for a local newspaper wrote a story about the contest and stated that Lawrence bore a striking resemblance to a young Carol Burnett. An avid fan letter-writer, Lawrence's mother urged her to write a letter, which Lawrence did, including the newspaper article.

After receiving the letter, Burnett found Lawrence's father's name in the phone book, called him, and said she would go to see the Miss Fireball contest. Lawrence won the contest and Burnett was called to the stage to crown her. Coincidentally, Burnett was looking for an actress to play her younger sister on her upcoming show. After a few months and auditions, Lawrence got the part at age eighteen, specifically for playing Chrissy in the "Carol and Sis" sketches.[4]

After Lawrence was given the job on The Carol Burnett Show, both Burnett and Harvey Korman took her under their wings. Korman taught her various sketch comedy skills, such as listening not just for a cue line, and also coached her in other areas, such as speaking in different accents. Lawrence has credited Korman and Burnett with being her mentors, and has referred to her experience on the show as the "Harvard school of comedy". Lawrence has stated that she learned show business from Burnett and looked up to her very much, and that the two share a very close friendship.[4]



On The Carol Burnett Show, L-R: Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, and Dinah Shore in the sketch "Went with the Wind!", 1977.
Vicki Lawrence as Thelma "Mama" Harper, 2009

As a comedian and actress, Lawrence is best known for her work on CBS's The Carol Burnett Show, of which she was a part from 1967 to 1978. She was the only cast member, except for Burnett herself, who stayed on the show for the entire 11 seasons. After The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, Lawrence and her husband Al Schultz moved with their children to Maui, Hawaii, but after a few years, returned to Los Angeles, where they have remained.

Mama Character and Mama's Family

In The Carol Burnett Show's 7th season, Lawrence debuted her famed Mama role on a comedy sketch called The Family. Only created as a one-off skit, The Family's unexpected success with audiences led to it having recurring installments for the final five seasons of the program. With Lawrence portraying the character of a cold, unaffectionate, widowed, elderly mother to the neurotic, misfortunate Eunice (played by Burnett despite Lawrence being 16 years younger), The Family bred some of The Carol Burnett Show's most famed blooper moments.

Her portrayal of the Mama character on The Carol Burnett Show's "The Family" sketches was so popular that CBS developed the TV movie Eunice in 1982, and NBC subsequently created the sitcom Mama's Family, elaborating on the Mama character (Burnett reprised the Eunice Higgins character for the sitcom from time to time). The series ran from 1983 to 1985 on NBC; after its cancellation from NBC, it was renewed from 1986 to 1990 in first-run syndication. The show was more successful in the renewed version. She also reprised the Mama character on stage for Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.

Other Acting

Lawrence has made appearances on other programs, such as the sitcoms Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, Major Dad, Diagnosis: Murder, and Yes, Dear. She appeared in two episodes of Murder, She Wrote, playing different characters. Lawrence also played Dan's old high-school flame, Phyllis, in an episode of Roseanne.

Between the NBC and syndication runs of Mama's Family, Lawrence starred in the 1985 comedy pilot Anything for Love, which aired as a special on CBS that summer and co-starred Lauren Tewes and Rebeca Arthur. Lawrence has also appeared with Burnett, Korman, and Tim Conway in the Burnett show retrospectives that were broadcast in 1993, 2001, and 2004. Lawrence played Sister Mary Paul (Sister Amnesia) in the TV special based on Nunsense Jamboree that originally aired on TNN in 1998. She is also known for her voice-over work as Flo on the animated series Hermie and Friends.

Lawrence played Mamaw Stewart (the mother of Robby Ray Stewart and grandmother of Jackson and Miley Stewart) in the hit Disney series Hannah Montana alongside Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley Cyrus from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, she was Mrs. Santa Claus in the Hallmark movie Annie Claus Is Coming to Town. She starred in the Fox sitcom The Cool Kids, along with Martin Mull, Leslie Jordan, and David Alan Grier from 2018 to 2019.

Lawrence played as Mama in an Ohio commercial, promoting a constitutional amendment that would permit casino gambling in Ohio. She also appeared in a special celebrity-edition episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link. Playing for a charity, she made it to the final two but ended up losing to Ed Begley Jr.


As a singer, Lawrence got her start as one of the scores of hopefuls on the syndicated Johnny Mann's Stand Up And Cheer program. However, she is most known for her number-one hit, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", a song written by her first husband Bobby Russell,[1] which was released on Bell Records in November 1972. It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America[5] during the last episode of the sixth season of The Carol Burnett Show (March 24, 1973), when Burnett herself surprised Lawrence with the award on the air. Her first LP, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, was issued soon after the single went gold. The song was re-recorded by Reba McEntire for her 1991 album For My Broken Heart. McEntire released the track as a single to country radio in 1992 and it peaked at No. 12 on the country chart, aided in part by a highly cinematic music video.

"He Did With Me", Lawrence's follow-up to "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", reached number 75 in the United States, although it reached the top 20 of the adult contemporary music charts and also became her biggest hit in Australia, peaking at number one there in November 1973. She followed it up there with "Ships in the Night" (1974). In the fall of 1975, Lawrence managed one last minor U.S. chart entry on the Private Stock label with "The Other Woman" (number 81).

In 1974, she recorded her second LP for Bell Records, Ships in the Night. The label was in the process of being phased out by Arista, and the LP was not released in the U.S. The LP was, however, released in Australia, where she continued to have chart success. Lawrence's first two LPs were released as a single CD with bonus tracks on April 1, 2014, by Real Gone Music.

She released a disco album entitled Newborn Woman in late 1979. The album produced the minor disco hit "Don't Stop the Music".

Hosting and other work

As an emcee, Lawrence hosted the daytime NBC version of the game show Win, Lose or Draw (1987-1990), as well as an unsold pilot for Mark Goodson Productions, 1990's Body Talk. She has also appeared often as a popular celebrity player on such game shows as Match Game, Password, Password Plus, Super Password, and various incarnations of the Pyramid game show, where she was known for verbally sparring with host Dick Clark on numerous occasions. In one episode, she also left after losing only to return during the closing credits. She also appeared on the 1986–89 version of Hollywood Squares, where she appeared both as herself and in character as Thelma "Mama" Harper. She was a regular panelist on the 1998 revival of Match Game, but the series only lasted one season.

As a talk show host, Lawrence was nominated a number of times for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host for the eponymous Vicki! (1992–1994), but the show ended after two seasons amid creative battles with her syndicator. In 1997, she hosted Fox After Breakfast, which was renamed The Vicki Lawrence Show,[6] but was cancelled five weeks later due to low ratings.[7]

In 2018, Lawrence was seen promoting The Carol Burnett Show and other classic television series on the MeTV television network.

She currently tours the country with her "two-woman" show with the first half as herself and the second half done as Mama. She can also be seen on TV in an infomercial for the Big Boss Grill.

Personal life

Lawrence was married to singer and songwriter Bobby Russell from 1972 to 1974. Lawrence's second husband is Hollywood make-up artist Al Schultz, to whom she has been married since November 16, 1974, and with whom she has two children, Courtney Allison Schultz (born May 3, 1975) and Garrett Lawrence Schultz (born July 3, 1977).[4]

Lawrence was a registered Republican for most of her life, and a strong supporter of Elizabeth Dole. In 2000, she changed her affiliation to the Democratic Party and endorsed Al Gore. Since then, she has remained active in a variety of liberal leaning causes including LGBTQ rights, women's rights, animal welfare and the environment.[8]

Lawrence and her family appeared on Celebrity Family Feud in July 2015.[9]

Lawrence was diagnosed with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) around 2011.[10] She teamed with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and has become the spokesperson for the campaign CIU & You.[11]

She appeared on The Doctors in 2015 to relay her story and talk about CIU and promote the CIU & You campaign.[12]


Selected film and television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1967–1978 The Carol Burnett Show Various characters Regular cast member

Won – Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program – 1976
Nominated – Primetime Emmy award for Best Supporting Actress in Comedy-Variety, Variety or Music (1967)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (1975, 1977)
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1973, 1975, 1977)

1975–1991 The (New) $25,000 Pyramid Herself (celebrity contestant) 90 episodes
1976–1991 The $25,000 Pyramid Herself (celebrity contestant) 7 episodes
1978 The Eddie Capra Mysteries Eve Randall Episode: "Murder on the Flip Side"
1978–1986 The Love Boat Various roles 6 episodes
1979 Carol Burnett & Company Various characters 4 episodes
1979–1983 Laverne & Shirley Sgt. Alvinia T. Plout 5 episodes
1979–1981 Password Plus Herself (celebrity contestant) 49 episodes
1982 Eunice Thelma Harper TV movie
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (1980–81)
1983–1990 Mama's Family Thelma Harper 130 episodes
1984–1988 Super Password Herself (celebrity contestant) 44 episodes
1985 Anything for Love Elaine Monty Unsold TV pilot[13]
1985 - 1986 Murder, She Wrote Phoebe Carroll / Jackie MacKay 2 episodes: "My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean" and "Trial by Error"
1987–1989 Win, Lose, or Draw Host Nominated – Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host (1988, 1989)
1991 Major Dad "Pookie" Pond Episode: "Steel Magnolia"
1992–1994 Vicki! Host Nominated – Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host (1993, 1994, 1995)
1993 Roseanne Phyllis Zimmer Episode: "Guilt by Imagination"
1994 Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never Die Nora Kingsley TV movie
1996 Diagnosis: Murder Kitty Lynn Episode: "FMurder"
1997 Fox After Breakfast: The Vicki Lawrence Show Host
2001–2005 Yes, Dear Natalie Warner 7 episodes
2002–2004 Hollywood Squares Herself/Thelma Harper (celebrity panelist) 45 episodes
2006–2011 Hannah Montana Ruthie "Mamaw" Stewart 5 episodes
2012 RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Herself/Thelma Harper 1 episode
2015 Celebrity Family Feud Herself 1 episode
2017 Great News Angie Deltaliano 4 episodes
2018–2019 The Cool Kids Margaret Flynn 22 episodes
2022 The Resident Gloria Ortiz Episode: "The Space Between"
2023 Call Me Kat Lurlene Crumpler Episode: "Call Me Philliam"
2023 The Really Loud House Joan Shivers Episode: "The Manager with the Planager"
2023 Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love Herself TV special



Year Album Chart positions[14] Catalog #
1973 The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia 51 Bell 1120; Stateside SOSL-10105
1974 Ships in the Night 94 Stateside SOSL-10106
1979 Newborn Woman Windmill LJ-26


Year Song Chart positions[14] Album
US US AC US Country CAN CAN AC CAN Country AUS[15] NZ
1969 "And I'll Go"
b/w "The Whole State of Alabama"
Non-album tracks
1970 "No, No"
b/w "Lincoln Street Chapel"
1973 "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"
b/w "Dime a Dance"
1 6 36 1 2 25 20 18 The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
"He Did with Me"
b/w "Mr. Allison"
75 14 42 16 1
1974 "Ships in the Night"
b/w "Sensual Man" (from The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia)
49 7 18 Ships in the Night
"Mama's Gonna Make It All Better"
b/w "Cameo"
56 18
"Old Home Movies"
b/w "The Light on the Back Porch Door" (from Ships in the Night)
UK release only
Non-album tracks
1975 "The Other Woman"
b/w "Cameo"
81 97 97
1976 "There's a Gun Still Smokin' in Nashville"
b/w "Mama's Gonna Make It All Better"
"Love in the Hot Afternoon"
b/w "The Other Man I've Been Slipping Around With"
1977 "Hollywood Seven" (mono)
b/w "Hollywood Seven" (stereo)
1979 "Don't Stop the Music"
b/w "Newborn Woman"
Newborn Woman
"Your Lies"
b/w "Star Love"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


See also


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1439. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  3. ^ "VICKI LAWRENCE booking – Celebrity Actors, Comedians – Corporate Entertainment Booking". March 26, 1949. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Vicki Lawrence". Archive of American Television. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  5. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 314–315. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  6. ^ Levin, Mark (August 19, 1997). "Fox remakes 'Breakfast'". Variety. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  7. ^ Littlton, Cynthia (September 23, 1997). "Fox axes 'Vicki'; ankles ayem". Variety. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  8. ^ "Vicki Lawrence – Trivia". IMDB. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  9. ^ "Celebrity Family Feud:Joey Lawrence vs. Mario Lopez/Ed Asner vs. Vicki Lawrence". IMDb. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  10. ^ "CIU&You". Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  11. ^ "Comedienne, Actress Vicki Lawrence Teams Up with AAFA To Talk About Chronic Skin Condition". Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  12. ^ "Vicki Lawrence's Chronic Health Condition". February 24, 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  13. ^ "Anything for Love (NBC unsold pilot)". TV Archives : Unsold Pilots. August 7, 1985.
  14. ^ a b "Vicki Lawrence Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 173. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ "Marc Eliot: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  17. ^ "Keynote Speaker: Monty Aidem". Retrieved November 11, 2012.