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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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46.

Beverly    

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett show and she never used her comedic routines to insult or degrade anyone. If she did make fun of another person, it was always lighthearted and uplifting. A porn shop skit is the best Fox TV could come up with for a living legend? Tsk, Tsk. Ms. Burnett was and still is a first class lady and comedian. For those of you who don't know who she is, its your loss. The people of the world today seem edgier, angrier and just plain ugly in spirit. I guess that's why the 'Family Guy' is so popular because it caters to the dark spirit inside some of us.

2757 days ago
47.

Crayola    

The lawsuit is a stretch. Unless they note for note sampled, it will be arduous task to prove copright infringement. It was out of respect that they even requested permission. She needs to find another way back into the limelight. Besides, only the older generations will even know her relevance.

2757 days ago
48.

Nico Sneako    

Give Carol B. her money! I hate family guy! Pay up studio idiots!

2757 days ago
49.

Terri    

YOU GO CAROL! WE LOVE YOU!

2757 days ago
50.

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

George RH:

But wouldn't you agree that the Carol Burnett Show paid for rights to those COPYRIGHT PROTECTED movies and characters.

I stand up for Carol Burnett. She has EARNED her right to be respected. Her televsion show is an institution in itself. IT deserves respect.

Her show entertained millions of viewers for several years and it never resorted to vulgarity and sexual innuendo. Rather, it depended on comic timing, excellent writing, musically talented artists, and wonderful actors with a wide range.

The program and Carol Burnett should not sit idly by and allow stupid shows like Family Guy -- a cartoon expressing little artistic mastery in animation AND in-studio talent for voices -- sully an excellent show like The Carol Burnett Show.

In this day and age, where people think the likes of one-note-song Adam Sandler is funny, comedians certainly don't warrant the respect that Carol deserves.

2757 days ago
51.

Karen    

#30 you explained the rationale of the suit but in today's "Me" world nobody seems to get that. They feel that people should walk all over everyone and do as they please. Lack of respect runs rampant -- just look at the way people talk to each other in here and the language that is used.

2757 days ago
52.

Devynn    

what took her so long to sue? that episode was out AT LEAST 2YRS AGO! but she should be glad she's being parodied. it's free PR!

2757 days ago
53.

Karen    

Once again, Texas Viewer, thanks for common sense comments.

2757 days ago
54.

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

I am a stupid moron who loves to thrust his narrow viewpoint down everyone's throats.

And then I will pout and have a sissy fit (oops! I mean, "a hissy fit") if someone disagrees with me.

After all, I am under the impression that my opinions are better and more valuable than anyone else's.

So don't mind me. Obviously, I am a cocky jerk!

2757 days ago
55.

Michael    

Carol Burnett created the world that allows shows like family guy to exist....the woman did no less than help create the world of television, she was a pioneer. She was such a talent she literally gave people a reason to own a TV.
Family Guy creates nothing, they are leech off an exisiting medium, trying to build off the Simpson's success with animation...and can't get a laugh without someone farting. I love comedy, its the first place I look on Netflix...Family Guy may be good for an occassional chuckle.....but Carol Burnett could make you hurt yourself....she commands respect, and is 100% in the right....legally and ethically.

2757 days ago
56.

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

Thanks, Karen. You posted your comments while I was typing mine, apparently.

Great minds think alike, huh? LOL

2757 days ago
57.

chelle    

OMG Get over yourselves celebs.
It's no big deal. It's comedy. All the "has beens" just want to sue cause they're either running out of money or need the publicity. Sue for the right reasons, not for the small insignif things. Once the skit is over, we won't remember it the next day. And if we do, think positive. "hey people still remember me".
Enough with the bitching, whining, moaning, whatever.

2757 days ago
58.

Douglas    

Don't mess with Carol Burnett. Get 'em girl! They did not have permission so they should have respected that.

2757 days ago
59.

Torrie    

I can't believe how mean some of you people are to each other.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. The big joke in here is
how personally some of you attack others that you don't even know.
What joy does it bring to you attack another's opinions and
postings?! It is possible to love both The Family Guy and Carol
Burnett without resorting to attacking each other with
pettiness, isn't it?

PS.

2757 days ago
60.

Justin    

“I have noticed an increasing lack of civility on all these posts. Also evident is the inability to make a comment without using profanity, particularly the f--- word. Are we so inarticulate a society that we can't think of any other word to describe how we feel? And, as I am sure someone will let me know right away that I don't have to go on this post site, let me assure that I won't do it again. I thought there were standards but obviously there are none. What are people being taught in English and Grammar classes these days? It seems that vocabulary is not being taught at all. As for not knowing who Carol Burnett is, it is your loss because she is one of the funniest comediannes ever. And the people who need to grow up are the people who can't make a sentence without smut being in it.”


It must be nice up there on your pedestal, Ms. Dudley. TMZ is not known for its hard-hitting, insightful, educational journalism; therefore it does not always attract readers and commentators with “civility.” Perhaps you should take your severely outdated argument to a more constructive place. And on the topic of grammar, you should probably take a lesson yourself since you incorrectly spelled comediennes.

2757 days ago
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