Vicki Lawrence and her alter ego share the stage

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - This mama is not afraid to say what's on her mind.

In a time when comedy is censored and the word "PC" is diligently followed to the "T," Emmy award-winner Vicki Lawrence is letting loose. Well, really it's Mama.

"It's my opportunity to say all the things that are politically incorrect. It's all the stuff we're thinking about but don't say anymore," said Lawrence of her acerbic alter ego, Mama, also known as Thelma Harper to television viewers.

Lawrence became popular in the "Carol Burnett Show" followed by her spin-off as Mama in "Mama's Family." She got to utter lines such as "The only way to keep from goin' crazy in this house is to stay half lit" and "I tell ya, a guy selling brains could clean up this family." She will take to the stage - uncensored - with raw comedy, music and just some "observations about real life." She will also perform her gold record, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."

But the multi-talented comedienne, who is naturally funny and down-to-earth, went a notch further in her new show, "Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show," playing at 8 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts.

Dedicating the first half to herself, that is, to Vicki Lawrence, Mama will hold the reins during the latter part of the show. It was something Lawrence felt was necessary.

"She is so popular that people will ask me where's Mama, like she's supposed to be with me," the 56-year-old said during a phone interview. "She's a very strong entity and I knew when I put this show together, I knew from fan mail and her popularity, that she had to be part of the show."

From her home in Southern California, Lawrence talks about her career, her show and, of course, her Mama.

How do you manage to keep Mama a total separate entity from yourself?

I hope we don't look anything alike! She's got a great personality and she's pretty well fine-tuned. I don't know how I do it, it just comes out of my deepest depths.

Is there something about Mama that you wanted to bring to the forefront?

She's my chance to be Chris Rock! She's got the worse potty mouth, like George Carlin.

We're seeing a different mama and it's not a children's show (at least over 17). She's very opinionated and I can do that. We're in a theater setting and I can say what I want. That's what makes it fun. She says things that Vicki would not talk about. We have to give it to Mama.

How would you describe Mama?

An old lady goes nuts. I think she's popular and no one takes offense to her because she's really not a person, but she is someone in your family who drives you crazy.

And your material for Mama?

In the news, the Enquirer, and my husband comes up with a lot. He reads the paper in the morning.

What is the reaction you're getting to this show?

People come up after the show and are surprised. They'll say, "We didn't you know did stand up!" As opposed to sit down? Comedy is still comedy and I hope Vicki is a nice surprise. I think she's pretty funny, too, she's an off-the-wall lady.

Can you describe your show?

My half is sort of musical, a little autobiographical. It's all the things people ask me and it's largely built on many of my speaking engagements I've done over the years. These are things people want to hear and they've developed into wonderful stories and anecdotes, like the ladies room thing and what women go through.

And Mama will be rapping. When I said to my writing partners that I wanted to do a rap song, they looked at me like I lost my mind!

Does Mama ever reference to Eunice at all?

We learned when writers would reference Ed and Eunice, the audience didn't know who they were. I have many fans that grew up with "Mama's Family" and they're just learning about Carol Burnett (where the characters Eunice and Ed were originally introduced).

Do you ever impersonate Mama at home?

That's my husband's nightmare. He doesn't even like to see me in drag, but she'll slip in and around the house (goes into Mama's voice).

Did you want to be an actress?

No really. I never thought that's what I'd do. My dad worked at Max Factor in Hollywood and my science projects were based on things like how to put the iridescent in lipstick or how nail polish dries.

I was going to UCLA, I thought I'd study dental hygiene, marry a dentist and that's it. But that didn't happen. But I do have a tooth fetish.

How was the experience on the Carol Burnett show?

It was amazing, it's like the Harvard School of Comedy, an amazing training ground. It's unusual for show business to have a star (Burnett) that is so giving.

What do you think of today's comedy compared to the Burnett show?

No one laughs for stupid reasons like they did. "Mama" was just silly. If I run into the old "Honeymooners," that was a show that was so silly for no reason, for ridiculous stuff. In one episode they couldn't move the chest of drawers and I was peeing. Everyone is so serious and so scared of doing something not politically correct.

How much longer do you want to do this show?

I don't see an end to it. It's mine. It's 90 minutes and it's all about me. It's not like I'm doing a play or I hate this set change, it's about me. Anything I don't like goes away so I can't imagine retiring. My husband and I see our friends retiring and it seems like they get old immediately. I just don't feel like I want to do that.