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Carol Burnett Sues Over "Family Guy" Gag

3/16/2007 3:25 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Peter Griffen, Carol BurnettComedian Carol Burnett is suing the FOX comedy "Family Guy" for using one of Burnett's signature characters and an altered version of her theme music without permission.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday, Burnett alleges that FOX requested permission to use "Carol's Theme" -- the theme music from "The Carol Burnett Show" -- in an episode of "Family Guy." When permission was denied, the lawsuit claims that FOX then went back and had the show rewritten to "disparage Ms. Burnett using Ms. Burnett's signature ear tug."

In the episode titled "Peterotica," the main character on "Family Guy," Peter, goes into a porn shop and remarks how clean it is. One of his friends says it is clean because "Carol Burnett works part-time as a janitor." The lawsuit says the camera then cuts to one of Burnett's signature characters from her TV show -- "Charwoman" -- wearing her "trademarked blue bonnet, bucket and mop" and "a slightly altered version of 'Carol's Theme' is playing."

Later in the scene, one character makes fun of Burnett's signature ear tug by saying, "She was really saying goodnight to her mom." To which another replies, "I wonder what she tugged to say goodnight to her dad." In fact, Burnett's ear tug was actually a hello to her grandmother.

Burnett claims this was all done without her permission or consent and is seeking in excess of $6 million in damages.

A statement from FOX reads: "'Family Guy,' like the 'Carol Burnett Show,' is famous for its pop culture parodies and satirical jabs at celebrities. We are surprised that Ms. Burnett, who has made a career of spoofing others on television, would go so far as to sue 'Family Guy' for a simple bit of comedy."

180 COMMENTS

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151.

Dorf    

Hey Carol...tug this.

Her show made its money making fun of deaf/short/old people but no one can make fun of you?

If you don't know Carol...YOU are the real cancer.

2589 days ago
152.

aneurysm    

although i grew up watching carol burnett when i was a kid & found her entertaining, someone else made a valid point. she constantly parodied others' work, such as mildred pierce, gone with the wind, mommie dearest, sunset boulevard, etc.
maybe something she should think about.

2589 days ago
153.

Miner3    

Great! More material for Family Guy. How many people did she satire on her show? Yeah, I don't remember her show either... Greatest generation, my ass. I actually thought she was dead. I guess just her sense of humor is.

2589 days ago
154.

carol ard    

Come on Carol.......Stop the crap..anyone can tug their ear!

2589 days ago
155.

Jenai    

First of all, I am 23 years old and I grew up watching Carol Burnett reruns and I am still a fan so the generalization that people under 30 don't know her is incorrect. Carol Burnett was touted as the next Lucille Ball (who I also am a huge fan of). I am a fan of Family Guy also, but I totally agree with her suing them. She is a legend and if they were denied permission and decided to do what they pleased anyway, then they are wrong. If they weren't going to respect her decision then they shouldn't have asked and went ahead with their plans anyway. Seth needs to pay up and maybe he will learn a valuable lesson through the process.

2589 days ago
156.

the atomic funk    

Will the makers of Gone With the Wind similarly sue Ms. Burnett now for the send-up that appeared on her show? Does she need the 2 mil because she hasn't worked in twenty years? Or is she afraid she needs some press because no one under 40 knows who she is?

Satire is a form of compliment, Carol. Some folks just can't take a joke.

2589 days ago
157.

TROLL SMASHERS    

that's funny because FOX is so known for going after anyone that steps on their copyrighted turf.
Hey fox, whats good for the goose???

also, it's strange that carroll is not a huge fan of the show considering her type of comedy over the years, you'd think she would be all for it.

2589 days ago
158.

Torrie    

Carol Burnett does not need the money. It is a matter of principal.
They asked for permission and they were denied. No brainer.

End of story.

2589 days ago
159.

Paul Cauchon    

Family Guy is a waste of computer bits. It is pathetic, especially compared to Simpsons or SouthPark. Carol Burnett is right to sue. I hope she prevails. For you youngsters, look her up on TVLand or something. That was true ensemble comedy, long before SCTV or SNL...

2589 days ago
160.

Jess    

This is an interesting case. I watch Family guy pretty regularly (I keep hoping they'll be able to match their past glory days), but grew up watching Carol Burnett. I must admit, I'm torn. I was pretty offended by the Family Guy sketch, being a longtime fan of Ms. Burnett and a take-it-or-leave-it fan of Family Guy. On one hand, she's being pretty sensitive over a show that doesn't care who it makes fun of (and quite honestly, the majority of people who are watching it at the time aren't going to know or care who she is). On the other hand, you've gotta respect your elders. Family Guy probably wouldn't exist if she hadn't helped to pave the way for shows of its type. And, she told them they couldn't use the theme, and even though they didn't, they got pretty close, and there's legal precedent there indicating she will probably be successful in the suit (A friend pointed out to me Tom Waits similar suit against Frito Lays).
But if I have to choose a side, I'm gonna have to go with Carol. She was consistently funny without resorting to crudeness. That's a good and undervalued skill.

2589 days ago
161.

Stan    

I'm for Carol...Go get them.

2589 days ago
162.

Mag    

They don't need permission, it's parody and protected by the first amendment. Weird Al asks for permission to do his work too, but he doesn't legally NEED it.

2588 days ago
163.

Asuka    

This episode that has her panties in a bunch , was shown a year ago and now she is complaining about. I really thought she was cool when I was a kid, I watched her show religiously. To think that she has to resort to suing for an 10 sec clip is ridiculous.

2588 days ago
164.

Justin    

I think that asking for her permission was more out of respect for her as a comic rather than actually for legal reasons. They make fun of people and shows (Dawson's Creek, Desperate Housewives, etc.) ALL the time. It's what the cartoon is about, making jokes about society and celebrities, as well as farts. FOX wouldn't air something if they thought it was going to violate copyrights, they're not stupid (though with some of their show choices you may beg to differ). Not to mention her show is ancient and has been off the air for a long time, so I'm sure many copyrights have expired.

2588 days ago
165.

Daniel    

Parody is perfectly legal & I'll cite weird al yankovic as an example. Al parodys the songs of many musicians and does ask for permission from the artists but legally he is not required to at all. Carole Burnett is a hypocrite due to the fact that she made a career from comedy that included parody and satire. The over-30 crowd would do well to stop clinging to the past and accept that humor will change and that things cant remain the same and must change with the times and current climate in society. I urge FOX to fight this lawsuit and defend the rights of comedians to comment and use satire and parody. If Ms.Burnett is given even one dollar...its a major blow to comedy and freedom of speech.

2588 days ago
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