“She has deserved every award because comedy is much harder than drama. Comedic actors have to do all of the same things that dramatic actors do, but faster – but sometimes also with a chimp,” said Poehler, who also zinged Leonardo DiCaprio and The Revenant. “So you slept in a horse and you ate bison liver. Big whoop. Carol would have slept in the horse, worn it, done a song and a dance, and made a much funnier face after eating something disgusting. The point is Carol is better than all of us. We’re going to give her a prize for it.”
Burnett, the Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning star of the ’60s and ’70s television series The Carol Burnett Show, was the 52nd recipient of the award, joining the ranks of Debbie Reynolds, Betty White and Dick Van Dyke.
The star opened her acceptance speech by recalling going to the movies multiple times a week with her grandmother and acting out her favorite films with her best friend, with whom she would climb the Hollywood sign, not far from her home.
“When I got my variety show, one of the major things I wanted to do and I loved doing was our takeoffs on all of the movies I grew up loving. This time we had costumes,” she said. “In essence we mounted a musical comedy review every week, and oh God, did we have fun.”
But the network tried to talk her out of doing a variety show, instead urging her to do a half-hour sitcom called Here’s Agnes. But her contract stipulated she could have 30, one-hour episodes of a variety show if she wanted it. .
“They said, “No, no, no. All the comedy variety shows are hosted by men comedy variety is a man’s game,’ ” recalled Burnett.
She closed by paying tribute to her onscreen stars, including Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, Tim Conway and the late Harvey Korman.
“I’m so glad we had this time together,” she closed her speech, quoting the theme song to her show.
Earlier this month, Burnett talked to PEOPLE about the difficulties women faced in the industry when she was doing her show back in 1967.
“If I spoke up or did what Jackie Gleason did …. Men could get away with it. But in my era, I would have been labeled a bitch,” Burnett said.
The 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are airing live on TNT and TBS.