America's funny lady, Carol Burnett, doesn't dwell on the past. She embraces it.
"I have some wonderful stories to tell, especially about the show," she says.
"The show," of course, is the legendary "Carol Burnett Show" that ran on CBS from 1967-1978. Burnett introduced musical numbers and performed in comedy skits along with cohorts Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Vicki Lawrence.
But each episode began with Burnett chatting with audience members and taking their questions. That's the setup of her latest "Laughter and Reflection" tour, which stops Tuesday at Melbourne's King Center.
"I enjoy it because it keeps the gray matter ticking," she says of the format she has used on tours for decades. "You have to be 'in the now' when you do a show like this."
Burnett, 77, also keeps her brain sharp with crossword puzzles. "It's my morning ritual," she says. "I attempt the New York Times one." If she gets stumped, she turns to the Los Angeles Times puzzle — "It's not quite as clever," she confides conspiratorially.
Not that her brain needs much boosting.
"I have a great memory," she says. "I can recall scenes in my childhood, with my grandmother, mother and father."
The daughter of alcoholic parents, Burnett was raised by her grandmother in a poor part of Hollywood, detailed in a 1986 memoir, "One More Time." From those humble beginnings, she went on to earn six Emmy awards, more People's Choice Awards than any other woman, the Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other accolades.
Her most recent book, "This Time Together," which was released in paperback Tuesday, was inspired by the tour and contains anecdotes from her showbiz days.
She's working on another memoirlike book, this one about her complicated relationship with daughter Carrie Hamilton, who beat drug addiction but died of cancer in 2002 at age 38.
"We had quite a history. She was a mess but I just adored her," Burnett says. "We wound up joined at the hip."
The book will be based on journals each kept for a year, then swapped to read the other's thoughts and feelings.
"I hope people will learn something from what we went through," Burnett says.
Good to be bad
Her other current project is voicing the villain in the animated film "The Borrowers," a Japanese cartoon that Disney is dubbing into English for American distribution early in 2012.
Burnett also voiced a villain in the animated "Horton Hears a Who." Is she being typecast?
"I think I am," she exclaims, with that ringing, familiar laugh. "It's fun, though."
She thinks her career's longevity was helped by being a TV star, rather than a movie star.
"When people watch you on the big screen, it's a bit removed," she says, turning thoughtful. "But when they watch you between their toes while laying in bed, they feel like they know you."
Of course, that can lead to being treated like a confidante by total strangers.
"I'm cool with that," Burnett says. Then pauses. "Well, sometimes people get going and I don't want to hear it." She laughs: "Too much information!"
She recently returned to television in a guest starring role on "Glee" as the mother of villainous Sue, played by Jane Lynch.
"I loved doing it, I loved Jane Lynch," Burnett says. "We were looking forward to locking eyeballs. I called my agent and said I would love to do a guest shot on 'Glee.' That was one I went after."
Burnett's a fan of "Glee" because "it's bringing music back to television. I like to see that, I miss the music."
She's still disappointed that repeats of "The Carol Burnett Show" have the musical numbers removed because of rights issues.
Besides "Glee," the only other TV show she records on her TiVo is soap opera "All My Children," on which she has also guest-starred.
Go for belly laughs
She enjoys watching fellow comedians.
"Ellen [DeGeneres] on HBO, she was hysterical," Burnett says. "It was all telling stories about life and the silly things we do. I watched a rerun of an old [Bill] Cosby one-man show — hysterically funny."
But modern comedies don't always tickle her fancy: "I'm not a prude but I don't like some of the crudeness in some movies today. It's overkill. It's easy to get a raunchy laugh. It really is. It's not as easy to get a good belly laugh — but you can."
And violence makes her physically ill.
"I get a pain in the calves of my legs. They tense up," she says. "I can't watch."
She and her husband, Brian Miller, rely on Netflix and — yep, turn to the past with their collection of classic movies.
"We watched 'My Man Godfrey' the other night," she says, referring to the 1936 William Powell-Carole Lombard comedy. "It held up."
Burnett scrupulously keeps momentoes in a collection of scrapbooks: They're very organized, I can usually find things if I need to." But old photos are displayed around her Southern California home. "I hang them on the wall, rather than throw them in a scrapbook," she says. "I want to look at them!"
Even with her love of the past, though, Burnett has to draw the line somewhere.
Take the famous Bob Mackie-designed dress with a curtain rod across the shoulders, for example. Burnett, spoofing Scarlett O'Hara, wore it for a "Gone With the Wind" parody on her show.
"I don't run around in the Scarlett costume," she says, followed by a perfect comic pause, then a gust of laughter.
"It's too hard to get into a car."
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See for yourself
See for yourself
•What: 'Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett'
•Where: King Center for the Performing Arts, 3865 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne
•When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
•Call: 321-242-2219Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times