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Mama’s Family

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Mama’s Family was a blue-collar comedy about a Midwestern family headed up by a sharp-tongued widow with a heart of gold, Mama Thelma Harper.


The show actually got its start in the 1970s as a popular sketch on The Carol Burnett Show.

The sketch was originally called The Family and appeared frequently on the one-hour show and, later, on the 30-minute syndicated series.

The sketch was written to star Carol Burnett as Mama and Vicki Lawrence as Eunice, but creator Burnett switched the roles around shortly before production.

As Lawrence put it later, “Carol was the big star, and we just listened to her.” In the end, the decision seemed to be the right one.

The sketch was a hit on the show, and soon Lawrence was approached about turning the skit into a comedy series. Surprisingly, she turned it down at first, stating that she didn’t want to leave The Carol Burnett Show.

After Lawrence’s made-for-TV movie, Eunice, was a ratings success in 1981, Vicki finally agreed to take the plunge and Mama’s Family first aired on 22 January 1983.


Vicki Lawrence played Mama, Ken Berry was her son Phil, Harvey Korman was Ed, and Carol was Eunice, Mama’s demeaned but indomitable daughter. The show was set in the fictional town of Raytown

The successful show evolved over its lifetime, growing from the roots of the original sketch.

By the time the show was syndicated in 1986, two new characters had been added to the cast: Allan Kayser was introduced as Bubba Higgins (Eunice’s son just out of reform school) and Beverly Archer starred as Iola Boyland, Mama’s prim neighbour and best friend.

Cast member Ken Berry changed roles, playing dim-witted locksmith Vint, instead of his earlier role of Phil, the cultured writer.

Mama’s Family ceased production in Spring of 1990.

Mama Thelma Harper
Vicki Lawrence

Ken Berry

Harvey Korman

Carol Burnett
Bubba Higgins 

Allan Kayser
Iola Boyland 

Beverly Archer

Ken Berry