Harvey Korman dead at age 81

Thu May 29, 2008 9:19pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comic actor Harvey Korman, who co-starred on the U.S. television classic "The Carol Burnett Show" in the 1960s and 1970s and in "Blazing Saddles" and other Mel Brooks movies, died on Thursday at age 81.

Korman died of complications from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm he suffered four months ago, according to a statement issued by the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center.

"It was a miracle in itself that he survived the incident at all," his daughter, Kate Korman, said in a statement.

"Everyone in the hospital referred to him as 'miracle man' because of his strong will and ability to bounce right back after several major operations. Tragically, after such a hard-fought battle he passed away," she added.

Starting off in small roles on Broadway, the tall, lanky actor first gained notice as a featured performer on "The Danny Kaye Show," a CBS musical variety series where he perfected his talents as a sketch comedy artist.

In 1967, he joined the cast of another popular CBS variety hour, "The Carol Burnett Show," and spent the next decade as Burnett's leading sidekick in an ensemble of comedy regulars whose chemistry turned the show into a prime-time classic.

Regular bits included the "Ed & Eunice" sketch, in which he and Burnett played an unhappily married couple who were at each other's throats as much as they were with Eunice's elderly mother, played by Vicki Lawrence. A spin-off series based on the sketch, "Mama's Family," ran on NBC several years later.

Korman also was famed on the show for his pairings with frequent guest star and eventual cast member Tim Conway, who had a knack for getting Korman to break from character and succumb to fits of laughter in the middle of their act.

Korman earned four Emmy Awards for his work on the show, but left the series in 1977 to pursue other projects, though he never quite achieved the same level of success.   Continued...

<p>File photo shows actor Harvey Korman at the Academy of Television Arts &amp; Sciences 15th annual Hall of Fame ceremony November 6, 2002 in Beverly Hills. Korman, who co-starred on U.S. television's "The Carol Burnett Show" in the 1960s and '70s and in "Blazing Saddles" and other Mel Brooks movies, died on Thursday at age 81. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>