<b>OrderedDict([('b', ['Vicki', 'Lawrence']), ('#text', 'interview (Cobb Civic Center April 3): her No. 1 song\xa0‘was one of the few good things that came out of that marriage!”')])</b>


Credit: Vicki Lawrence

Credit: Vicki Lawrence

Originally posted Wednesday, March 30, 2016 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Vicki Lawrence started playing her character Mama Thelma Harper when she was just 24 years old on "The Carol Burnett Show." Mama was supposed to be in her 60s.

Now Lawrence is about the age of Mama but looks far younger.

"I used to say Mama was kind of 65 and holding," mused Lawrence, 67, who is going to perform at the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta on Saturday. "Now that I've reached that age, I realize she must be much, much older!"

Lawrence was the star of her own sitcom in the 1980s, "Mama's Family." Lawrence has always held a deep affection for the character and a few years back, decided to resurrect her in stage form.

"Funny thing is the older I get, the more I think like her," Lawrence said. "You reach an age where you don't have time to mince words. You say what you're thinking. I think you earn that right."

She admits that "she's like my evil twin, my husband's nightmare."

The stage show starts with Lawrence as herself and is largely autobiographical. She talks about her rise in show business and work with "The Carol Burnett Show," the classic sketch comedy show from 1967 to 1978.

She said she adjusts the show, especially the part with Mama, based on the news. "It's fun to push this crazy old lady into the new century and keep her topical," she said. No doubt, she said, Mama will have something pertinent to say about Donald Trump. Lawrence's last humor book in 2008 was appropriately named "Mama for President: Good Lord, Why Not?"

Lawrence remains close friends with Burnett, who gave her a career as a teenager. "We correspond all the time," she said. "She's on the road frequently herself."

The California native has a connection with Georgia, courtesy of a No. 1 song from 43 years ago, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." It bumped Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song" after a very slow eight-month climb up the charts.

"It was a good storytelling song," Lawrence said. It reminded her of the 1967 Bobbie Gentry hit "Ode to Billie Joe." Lawrence was so fascinated by the story, she transcribed the lyrics by playing a few seconds and moving the record needle back to hear it again and again.

"I remember driving my mom crazy doing that!" she said.

"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" is about a man who confesses to sleeping with another man's wife and gets murdered. But the wrong man is accused and convicted. The twist: The narrator --- the falsely accused man's sister --- actually did the deed. "Little sister don't miss when she aims her gun," Lawrence sang.

How Lawrence landed the song was a simple case of connections.

She had been briefly married to singer-songwriter Bobby Russell, who penned the song but didn't like it and felt people in the South might take it the wrong way. She thought he was "keeping a hit song in his back pocket," so she recorded it.

To her surprise, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" landed at No. 1 while she was getting a divorce from Russell.

"It was one of the few good things that came out of that marriage!" she cracked.


Vicki Lawrence and Mama

8 p.m. Saturday. $40. Anderson Theatre, Cobb Civic Center, 548 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta. www.ticketmaster.com.