Okay, let’s say you’re a big star and you run inside a fancy department store because you desperately need something important (panty hose!) so that civilization as we know it doesn’t crumble. But you didn’t bring enough cash and you don’t have any photo ID. How do you convince the store to accept your check?

I think most of the audience at McCaw Hall here in Seattle figured out the answer pretty quickly last night. We all knew what was going to happen when Carol Burnett started telling the story. And yet, we were all surprised by the punch line.


Burnett’s “Laughter and Reflection” performance was primarily—like the opening moments of her Emmy-winning variety TV show (1967-78)—a question and answer session. Oh, we got to see some hilarious clips from the series as well, but it was mostly just Burnett alone on stage telling us about her life and coming up with funny answers to funny (as in odd) questions from the audience.

That may not sound like the makings of a great evening, but Burnett’s ability to connect with people is phenomenal and her obvious delight when she gets a wacky question is contagious.

The pantyhose story came early in the evening when a woman in the audience got up and mentioned the “Tarzan” yell (actually more of a yodel) that Burnett did so often on her TV show. Apparently the woman’s mother used to wake her up every morning with the yell. The mom was in the audience too. So the daughter and Carol tried to get the mom to do the yell. She declined–insisting she was out of practice. So Carol did the Tarzan yell herself.


Carol also told a story about how she was in a ritzy store once and didn’t have any ID. So–to verify that she was really Carol Burnett–the store manager had her give the Tarzan yodel. A moment later, the store’s security guard–not knowing what the heck was going on–burst through a door with his gun drawn.