NORTH TONAWANDA — Editor's note: The Vicki Lawrence show has been postponed until July 25. All pre-sale tickets to the original Tuesday show will be honored on the new date.
When Vicki Lawrence first performed the character of Thelma Harper some 40 years ago, she never envisioned still playing the part when she was actually as old as the character.
But Mama has lived on and continues to entertain generations of fans, who have a chance to see both Mama and her creator this week during two shows at the Riviera Theatre.
The 64-year-old comedian hasn’t grown the least bit weary of playing Harper, who debuted on the “Carol Burnett Show” and was popular enough to have her own spinoff in the 1980s, “Mama’s Family.” She thought the fire for Mama’s cantankerous brand of humor might have been extinguished after that, but a “Burnett Show” reunion in the early 2000s proved otherwise. She put together a show that debuted to sellout crowds in Las Vegas in summer 2002 and has kept it going since.
“My goal was to make people laugh for 90 minutes and take them away from a lot of the crap going on in the world,” she said of the show, which started getting crafted soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As the name suggests, the show has two parts. The first half is Lawrence speaking about her life and career. She said she tailored the monologue to answer the questions people might bring up if it were a question-and-answer session.
The second half sees Lawrence don the familiar grey wig and glasses and discuss events as Harper. In spite of the character’s age, Lawrence said keeping her fresh is surprisingly easy.
“I knew I didn’t want the show to be retrospective. I wanted to push her into the next century,” Lawrence said. “God only knows what’s going to happen in the news today that I will have to put in the show. Who every dreamed that General Patreus (David, former CIA director) would be in my act?”