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Harvey Korman, 1927-2008

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Harvey Korman, the comic actor best known for his appearances on The Carol Burnett Show and Mel Brooks’ movies (for instance, as the tightly wound Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles), died yesterday. On the Burnett show, my earliest memory of him, he was one of TV’s all-time great supporting comics, pulling off multiple roles with confidence and professionalism. For a guy like Korman, “second banana” wasn’t a diminutive, it was a title of honor. Sketch shows like Saturday Night Live often draw their power from kind of a hungry competitive energy among the up-and-coming performers. For all I know, the Burnett cast was equally as competitive, but that wasn’t the vibe of their performances; instead, they played like an assured, comfortable, well-matched group of peers, and Korman was first—or, rather, second banana—among equals.

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