You Would Think That Carol Burnett Would Know What Parody Means

from the wouldn't-you? dept

syzygy was the first of many to submit to us the story of comedian Carol Burnett suing the producers of the TV show Family Guy over a parody of a Carol Burnett character that was included in one episode last season. If you’re a regular (or even not-so-regular) watcher of Family Guy, you know that they often include short parodies of various famous TV shows. You would think, of course, that a comedian like Burnett would understand parody — and understand that it’s protected fair use under copyright laws. Apparently, that’s wishful thinking. The producers of Family Guy have noted the irony of Burnett, famous for her own parodies and spoofs of popular culture icons, suing someone else for doing the same thing. However, if Burnett is unfamiliar with the meaning of parody, perhaps she’s unfamiliar with irony as well.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “You Would Think That Carol Burnett Would Know What Parody Means”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
FH Harris says:

Re: Closer to defamation

it is impossible to go from parody to defamation…. It is not like one is an extension of another…

Defamation is an act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in ‘defamatory language’.

THere is the mattter of intent

SkippyTMut says:

Sucks for her...

What’s really going to “grind her gears” is when the lawsuit gets thrown out and Family Guy spends an entire episode making fun of her in any way that they can. Unless of course she’s expecting that and simply plans to use this as a way to trump up publicity for some new project she’s working on. That’s definetly a possibility too.

Bob says:

Anyone who thinks Carol Burnett herself was in any way involved in this lawsuit is likely kidding himself. She’s nearly 74 years old; I’m sure someone on her agent’s legal staff felt he needed some job protection and happened to be watching FG at the right moment. Sure it’s meritless, but that’s what’s great about America: a completely open legal system available to any schmuck with the time and energy to file the right paperwork. God I love this country.

RJD says:

Conversation goes like this

This is probably how it started … Lawyer to Ms. Burnett, “oh by the way, we’re suing someone on your behalf” …

I’d hate to think the hollywood people really care about any of this. I somehow doubt Ms. Burnett watches Family Guy much less is even aware of what it is.

A smell a lawyer .. or dog crap. Sometimes hard to tell the difference.

Daniel says:

Lucille Ball

Canning Factory? Well, if you’re sure it was a canning factory, then it must have been Burnett possibly parodying Lucy Ball, because aside from another instance I cannot specifically recall, Lucy was working the conveyer line in a chocolate or candy factory where she was in charge of wrapping the darn things, and the line was going so fast she just started eating them.

TheDock22 says:


I’m not entirely sure Carol Burnett would care if her stuff was parodied, it sounds more like a case a lawyer boredom as someone else previously mentioned. I do think she knows what Family Guy is though.

If she was upset, it was probably because her character was a janitor in an adult shop and they made a rude sexual comment about her signature ear tug. And the only reason Family Guy went after her in the first place is because they asked permission to use the Carol Burnett theme song and she refused.

Now I like Family Guy and think it’s hilarious. I also think she shouldn’t win her lawsuit because my loyalties lie with Family Guy. But I do understand she has every reason to be upset.

rstr5105 says:

Streisand effect

I am definitly seeing a small pattern in the MSM at this time. It started with the NFL Thing a couple months back.

First pick someone who is well within their rights to do something.

Second, attack them for something they are well within their rights to do.

Then the split.

Third Win your lawsuit, collect $$$ in royalties/damages/whatever. Stop said entity from doing what it was you didn’t like.


third Lose said lawsuit, targetted entity continues doing what they were doing & in this case parodies you further. THUS increasing your own publicity. Collect $$$, sit back and live the life of luxury.

It seems that the streisand effect is in full swing here.

StuCop says:

Why can’t people and/or corporations understand fair use and trademarks and copyrights? Parody is fair use. Anyway coming from Carol Burnett it seems a bit hypocritical seeing as her repertoire was mostly ummm…borrowed…from Lucille Ball. So if lawyers back in her day were so myopic when it came to trademark/copyright and fair use it’s pretty safe to say she would have been sued out of a career. Which would have robbed the public of her wonderful work and the advancements she made in comedy by building off of what Lucille Ball had done before her.

Steve-O says:

As I always say, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I think Family Guy borders on obscene at times and I’m sure I’ll be termed a fuddy duddy and ‘not with the times’ thinking this way. I honestly believe Carol Burnett was offended by the portrayal and use of her image. I don’t think she would have sued had her character not been portrayed in a porn business. And by the way, I also don’t think Carol Burnett starves for attention. She’s a classy broad who has talent beyond anyone who we term as ‘celebrities’ these days. At least she doesn’t flash her business when getting out of a limo like some these days.

Carol-hater says:

If Family Guy was sued over every parody they
do, the show would cost Fox so much it would never see the light of day again.
The fact is a has-been like carol Burnett or probably her “legal team” although I’m not sure she really would need whole team is just looking to hear people bring up her name again.
After all it has been 30 years.
I say, get a life Carol and go back to the seniors home lifestyle you’ve probably just grown tired of…

mlvassallo says:

There is a difference between parody and ripping off. And Family Guy does a lot of “ripping off”.

The most famous example of this would be Stewie doing Shatner’s version of Rocket Man. Now, if Shatner made his name off of that version- doing it just like that and that was his livelihood then he would have grounds to sue because it wouldn’t be parody- it would be a form of plagiarism, also it isn’t that origional.

That would be my man problem with a show like Family Guy- nothing they do is original.

SailorAlphaCentauri says:

Oh come on...

They do at least three of those stupid things every episode (I counted)! There’s always a parody, something hate-filled (usually targeted at the daughter) or sexual, and something of bad taste (like last night’s Prom Night Dumpster Baby song when FG aired on Adult Swim). The most blatant rip-off they did was the Peanut-butter-jelly time bit that was stolen off the Internet, and that was most likely because the producers didn’t know that the dancing bananna was someone’s actual creation.

What they did to Burnett’s character was so minor I can barely remember what it was…it was pretty innocuous and happened in the last season, and should’ve garnered a lawsuit sooner than now if it were truly a problem.

I’m not a big fan of the show (I hated it the first time around, but eventually liked what I saw in re-runs) as it has become a bit predictable, but I don’t think what they’ve done is akin to copyright infringement (especially since they didn’t try to pass it off as their own creation). It’s a lot of noise over nothing.

Stevieo (user link) says:

Perhaps she just doesn’t want to be associated with a show that seems to find humor in the battering of women and domestic violenence. Hardy Har har, rip roarious Fox.

I’d like to sue the producers for 2 million just for making such an unfunny cartoon. I mean that’s hard to accomplish.

Carols show was like 100X funnier than any episode of FatlyGuy. I hope she wins and enjoys a nice well deserved retirement.

deepee says:

Carol was one of the best

Many of you are quite underinformed. The part of this that was worth suing about was that she didn’t give permission when Seth asked to use her likeness and theme song…soooo, he did defame her (with malice) by intimating she jacked-off her father at night before bedtime. The rest of the lawsuit is just lawyers jacking-off each other. She was an icon of “real” entertainment and by any measure deserves to be treated with dignity.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...