From the first time the sketch “The Family” aired on “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1974, up until the present day, comedian Vicki Lawrence has been shadowed by an elderly woman in a floral print dress with a head of tight, blue-rinse curls. Ever since Thelma Mae Crowley Harper arrived in her life as a recurring character on Burnett’s show, Lawrence has been unable to shake her. Thelma, better known to the world as Mama, was even killed off in a 1982 made-for-TV movie called “Eunice,” but somehow rose from the dead to star in “Mama’s Family,” the sitcom that ran from 1983 to 1990.
Mama tormented her daughter Eunice, played by Burnett, until Burnett’s variety show ended in 1978 after an 11-year run. Lawrence has played multiple characters in addition to Mama. She has also hosted a game show and a talk show, authored a book, and had a number one pop hit with “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” But despite her crusty exterior, Mama is still the Lawrence creation most beloved by fans.