Carol Burnett became a TV icon amid the Vietnam War and the protest movement, but the comedian was never big on political humor.
“We were never topical,” Burnett, whose beloved variety show ran from 1967 to 1978, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “It wasn’t my deal. I just wanted to provide belly laughs. … We did some political stuff early on, but nothing pointed as Tommy and Dick, the Smothers Brothers.”
Aside from supporting the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, Burnett has largely steered clear of political debates, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her opinions about the daily scroll of depressing headlines.
“I get annoyed,” she says. “What’s not to be annoyed about? It’s just one thing after another.”
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“I give myself this advice,” she says of America’s acrimonious state. “I’m hopeful that this too shall pass — very quickly. I know it will pass eventually, so I always add very quickly.”
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In PEOPLE’s interview, which took place not long after the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings last February, Burnett expressed the frustration felt by many in the wake of the incident, which killed 17: “I’m just sick about it. I’m just heartsick about the whole gun thing. It makes me crazy.”
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Still, the star — whose current Netflix series, A Little Help with Carol Burnett, features her and a panel of young children giving life advice to flummoxed adults — takes heart from what survivors have accomplished in the aftermath.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” says Burnett, whose younger fans have come to know her through YouTube clips of her show and playing Miss Hannigan in 1982’s Annie. “These kids are so smart, articulate and caring. I think this may just be a tipping point. I hope so. I hope those poor little darlings didn’t die in vain.”
An optimist at heart, she believes they are well on their way to changing the world: “These kids are not going to listen to adults who say there’s nothing you can do. There’s always something you can do.”