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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."


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Shoot... she should feel blessed someone even knows who she is anymore....I'm not a fan of the show, but if a popular show is talking about you... you're somebody. Could always be worse.... quit your sniflin....

2780 days ago

Just Another Hater    

Carol Dudley - Insightful comments. I agree with your assessment and worse yet, the racism in these posts is digusting (not this string, but check out Sanjaya's for confirmation).

But I was kidding when I asked who Carol Burnett is.

2780 days ago

Ron Rale (the Diaper Pail -- and I am not full of $hit)    

Carol Burnett is an institution with a trademark. As a corporation, it is entitled to protections. You don't disparage a trademark (Coke or Pepsi wouldn't let Family Guy poke fun at them without permission) and you don't play copyrighted music or a derivative of copyrighted music on a commercially-sponsored (i.e., $$) program without paying for those rights.

The producers of Family Guy decided to break those two laws.

2780 days ago

back in the day    

I believe that perhaps the scene was in a hospital rather than a porn shop there might not be so much friction. Give Carol her props! She's an icon! Like someone else said, Don't mess with Carol!

Although this article is correct, a lot of her show was made up of making fun of the famous such as the infamous Vivian Leigh in Gone With The Wind skit.

2780 days ago


I love Family Guy, and I was young enough to remember the Carol Burnett show. In her day, she was one of the funniest people in show business, along with Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and the rest of the cast. (I know.....most of you in TMZ land aren't older than 15, so I'm sure you don't know who those people are either.) Anyway, Carol was and is a legend. Compared to most of the unfunny hack comedians of today, in her prime, she was a respected comedienne and actress,
So to those of you who think she was a nobody, think again. And to Family Guy..........keep up the good work!!!!! And Carol........lighten up.

2780 days ago


Rob: It's a free country. I can post wherever I wish to. I merely
suggested that if this irates you so much, find a board where people
are more angry like yourself. Please if you must reply, do not YELL at me!
Great post Carol Dudley!
Rock on Carol Burnette!!!

2780 days ago


I guess she hasn't had any publicity in a while - sorry to see she has to stoop so low to get the attention she desires... What was she doing watching Family Guy anyway? Getting pointers?

2780 days ago


19 if she's such a legend...then why DON'T YOU LEARN HOW TO SPELL HER NAME CORRECTLY. What a joke you are.

2780 days ago


is this a joke?!!!

2780 days ago

J. Christopher    

Really, how stupid. Get over yourself.

2780 days ago


"Who is Carol Burnett?"

What a sad commentary this is on the under-30 crowd out there. These morons are so used to having everything at their fingertips that they can only understand comedy that hits you over the head with crudity or shock value - like Family Guy.

Carol is from a generation of stars that rewarded their viewers by giving them finely-written, well-acted entertainment that didn't insult their intelligence.

Show some respect. Oh that's right, you don't know how.

2780 days ago


WOW!! You people really need to get a clue. Carol Burnett is the original queen of live, slapstick style comedy. She has her own show on TV for years and it was taped live. Alot of mistakes were made while taping and Carol as well as the other actors, one such as Tim Conway would use there natural comedy to go on with the show, a lot of improv and just plain hilarity was used. Nothing crude at all. Family guy does have its moments, but its only a cartoon and nothing to the real thing. The real thing is much better. Google Carol Burnett and check out clips of her show called "The Carol Burnett Show". Classic, original, true comedy. When you watch, Imagine that comeidians and comedy does not have to be nasty or crude to be really funny.

2780 days ago

Julia Sugarbaker    

Carol Burnett should be honored to be included in such an established modern comedy. Instead of suing for money, she should offer her services and lend her voice to a character. I can't imagine why she wouldn't let them use her theme song. Surely it's not generating any income through any other avenue.

2780 days ago

Just Another Hater    

C'est moi: Sorry if you misconstrued my post as "yelling." Not really sure how to do that in an electronic post. Was it the capital letters?

My point was simply that this string is pretty tame compared to some of the crap I've seen on the site. But I love it when people tell others to shut up but claim "free speech" when they're views are challenged. Quite amusing.

But I'm not particulary angry about it. Carol Burnett's battle against the Family Guy has little impact on my life. Just killing time on a Friday...


2780 days ago


Carol Burnett rocks! If she said NO, she has every right to sue.

2780 days ago
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