Make no mistake: Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell isn’t technically a yell. It’s a yodel.
That’s what the comediennes explains to Larry King when he asked her about her famous Tarzan yell on Larry King Now. Burnett immortalized the yell when she incorporated it into the Q&A section of The Carol Burnett Show.
The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show starring Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway. The television series aired for 11 seasons on CBS on Saturday evenings from 1967-1978. Every week, the sketch comedy show featured funny skits, vaudeville-style performances, musical comedy, and parodies with different Hollywood stars and celebrities. During its 11-year run, the TV show received 22 Emmy Awards.
The origins of the Carol Burnett Tarzan yell
Turns out, Burnett taught herself the yodel years before the idea of The Carol Burnett Show was even hatched. It all started when Burnett was around nine years old. Burnett and her “beautiful blonde cousin” would act out scenes from the Tarzan movies.
“Naturally, she was Jane,” she explained in an interview with USA Today. “I was Tarzan. So, I taught myself to do the Tarzan yell.”
How the Tarzan yell Saved Carol Burnett from a Mugger
Burnett’s masterful interpretation of the Tarzan yodel would come in handy years later, when she was a young woman.
“It was late at night and this guy came up behind me,” Burnett recalled in an interview on the TODAY show. “… he grabbed my shoulder and said, ‘OK miss.’ I was so mad and turned around and Tarzan yelled.”
Her gamble paid off. “That sucker ran!” Burnett said. “It worked!”
In the same interview, the NBC hosts asked fans on the Today Plaza in Rockafeller Center in New York to do their best Tarzan yell. When Burnett was asked to pick the best one, she graciously insists, “Aw, they’re all good!”