Carol Burnett is known for her variety show, which aired on CBS from 1967 through 1978. While hosting the popular Carol Burnett Show — which featured comedic sketches and musical performances — Burnett would often interact with her in-studio audience. And frequently, the TV host would show off her Tarzan call to the crowd. But for Burnett, the Tarzan yell wasn’t just a party trick; one time, it stopped a potential mugging.
‘The Carol Burnett Show’ star practiced her future variety-show ‘Tarzan’ yell from a young age
Burnett’s famous screech was often featured during the question-and-answer portion of The Carol Burnett Show. In front of her adoring audience, the host would hold her hand up to her right cheek and let it wail. But the Tarzan yell is not something that Burnett created for her variety program; she’s been perfecting the craft for decades.
As Burnett explained in an interview on Larry King Now, she first picked up the call after she and her cousin watched the Tarzan movies. At around 9 years old, Burnett started teaching herself how to scream like the popular film character.
Burnett and her cousin would play together as Tarzan and Jane, recreating their favorite scenes from the movie. However, Burnett clarified to Larry King that’s not a yell, but a “yodel.”
Carol Burnett used her Tarzan yodel to stop crime in its tracks
In 2014, Burnett joined Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on NBC’s Today, where she judged 3 brave fans’ own version of their Tarzan yodel — and picked a winner.
In the same interview, Burnett also shared a hilarious story about her iconic yodel.
“I was very young and I was walking down the street,” Burnett recalled. “It was late at night.” The comedian was out getting a newspaper when someone approached her from behind.
“This guy came up behind me, like a mugger or something,” she told Gifford and Kotb.
According to the former TV host, the man grabbed her by the shoulder saying, “OK, OK, miss.” While many of us would be terrified in this kind of situation, Burnett’s immediate reaction was rage. Followed quickly by: yodeling.
“And I was so mad, I turned around,” she said. Then, Burnett proceeded to do a wild version of her famous yell, right in the man’s face. What happened next?
“That sucker ran!” Burnett told the Today hosts, laughing. “In case you’re ever” in that situation, the former variety show host explained, “this could work.”
“He said, ‘I can’t deal with a crazy woman,’” Gifford joked back.
“Exactly,” the Carol Burnett Show host agreed. “It worked!”
So, if you ever find yourself in such an anxiety-inducing situation, the Tarzan yodel is worth a shot.
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