Vicki Lawrence (and Mama) to perform in Poway

Vicki Lawrence and Mama, performing in a two-woman show 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.
Vicki Lawrence and Mama, performing in a two-woman show 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.

By Emily Sorensen

Mama’s in the house 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, when legendary comedian Vicki Lawrence takes the stage with “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show,” at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts.

Best known for her work on the “Carol Burnett Show” as well as her own spin-off sitcom, “Mama’s Family,” Lawrence aims to not only make you laugh, but also share her own stories with the audience in her show, which includes stories, singing and, of course, Mama. “It’s half me, and it’s half Mama,” said Lawrence, who starts off the show as herself before undergoing a transformation halfway through. “I need to be me before I turn into Mama.”

Lawrence’s career in comedy began truly by luck and chance. As a high school senior at the ripe old age of 17, Lawrence wrote a fan letter to Carol Burnett asking her to come and watch Lawrence compete in the “Miss Fireball” contest. By chance, the letter landed on Burnett’s desk the day of the contest, and Burnett was able to attend. “She just had a feeling about the letter,” said Lawrence, “and she took a chance.”

Burnett had been looking to cast someone to play, among other things, her younger sister on the “Carol Burnett Show,” and after seeing Lawrence in the contest, asked her to audition. Lawrence landed the part, and started on the “Carol Burnett Show” the next fall, the same time she began attending classes at UCLA. “I don’t think I was even that funny in high school,” said Lawrence of the events that led to her life-long career. “I was more musically based.”

When Lawrence was 24, she created the character of Thelma Harper, better known as “Mama,” her most famous and longest-lasting creation. Though created decades ago, Lawrence said she’s worked to keep Mama topical and up-to-date in her traveling, two-woman show. “It’s fun to keep Mama topical,” said Lawrence. “I’m constantly refreshing my material. I know how much everyone loves [Mama].”

Lawrence began her two-woman show in 2002, not long after the events of 9/11. “People needed a break to laugh and relax,” said Lawrence. “I really love making people laugh for awhile, and taking them away for 90 minutes.”

While Lawrence incorporates music into her show, everything from her number one hit song “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” to a rap by Mama, Lawrence said she has no plans to return to music professionally. “Mama’s certainly very musical,” said Lawrence. “There’s enough music [in the show] to remind you and entertain you, but not enough to bore you.”

Lawrence, who has written two books, “Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball,” in 1995 and 2008’s “Mama for President: Good Lord, Why Not?”, said she was thinking of writing a third. “I’m thinking I need to write another book,” said Lawrence, who added that maybe it would be a cookbook. “I love to get in my kitchen and cook.” Lawrence and her husband, Al Schultz, also work with the Humane Society, and are big proponents of rescuing animals. “We’re all about rescuing,” said Lawrence.

More than anything, audiences at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts can expect a hilarious evening. “We’re going to laugh and have a good time,” said Lawrence. “God knows we need it.”

Tickets for “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show,” range from $45 - $55 for adults, $10 for youth under 18 with purchase of an adult ticket. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 858-748-0505, in person at the box office, 15498 Espola Road, Poway, or online at

www.powayarts.org

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