Vicki Lawrence will celebrate 4 decades of 'Mama' at IP Saturday


It's been more than 40 years since Vicki Lawrence created the iconic Thelma Harper, family matriarch, on the CBS sketch-comedy show "The Carol Burnett Show."

Lawrence's character was so popular Harper was the title star of "Mama's Family," which debuted in 1984 on NBC and aired in first-run syndication for four seasons.

Lawrence will be hitting the IP Casino Resort at 8 p.m. Saturday in "Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show."

"Basically, I open for Mama," Lawrence said in a phone interview with the Sun Herald. "When we put the show together, I thought it would be fun to call it a two-woman show, because I like to think that Mama and Vicki are distinctly different. Maybe in a few years we'll be similar, but right now we're still pretty different."

Lawrence said the show is divided into two halves, with her half being somewhat autobiographical.

"I think my life has been pretty comical and serendipitous," she said.

And fans need not worry -- she will be performing her 1973 No. 1 hit, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."

"You can't have a juggernaut hit like that and not perform it," she said with a laugh.

Then there's Mama. "After I do my part, my evil twin Mama comes out and says everything we are all thinking, but we can't say because it's politically incorrect," she said.

Lawrence said she has no problem writing new material for her character.

"Any time there's anything even remotely colorful in the news, Mama always gets the good jokes," she said. "I always try to keep her topical and keep her in this century and let her say what I think everyone is thinking. Whenever stuff changes in the news, I try to keep her on top of it."

Some years, it's easier to find material for Mama, Lawrence said. And with the presidential election just around the corner, she said she is having no problem finding talking points.

"When we (introduced the Mama character), it was a year and a half after Sept. 11, 2001, and my goal was to take everyone away from everything that was going on, so we didn't touch politics," she said. "The first time Hillary (Clinton) ran, things started getting kind of funny so I decided we needed to enter the political arena. But this year, for God's sake, it's just writing itself."