Interview: Catching Up With Vicki Lawrence of 'Great News'

Vicki Lawrence

Everything about actor, comedienne Vicki Lawrence is endearing.  From the way she first got her job in entertainment, to the creation of her iconic Mama character, to her dedication to her family, to her commitment to helping people and her positive view of the world, Vicki is conscientious, gracious and talented and she can be seen once again on the NBC series Great News that returned on September 28 and on The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary special on Dec. 3.

After years of taking dance classes, Lawrence, a Southern California native was planning on becoming a dental hygienist and marrying a prosperous dentist when fate came in to play during her senior year in high school.  Many people commented on how much she looked like Carol Burnett, so she took the time to write a fan letter.  And, to her surprise, Carol Burnett showed up and soon after she had an audition for The Carol Burnett Show on CBS, thus beginning her comedy career on a hit show that lasted from 1976 to 1978.

Her most famous and still played character of Mama a.k.a Thelma Harper was developed while on The Carol Burnett Show and rand from 1983 to 1990, first on NBC and then syndicated since 1986.  She also guest starred on many TV series and has reprised the Mama character on stage for Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show—a show that still runs.

Her first marriage created the inspiration for her 1973 one hit wonder song “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.”  Lawrence married Hollywood make-up artist Al Schultz in 1974 and they had two children, Courtney Allison Schultz and Garrett Lawrence Schultz.

Vicki Lawrence spoke with Michelle Tompkins for about how a well-written letter to Carol Burnett changed her life, what she learned from being on The Carol Burnett Show, how the infamous “Went With the Wind!” came about, the development on Mama, how it felt to have Tina Fey request her, what she likes to do for fun, what is Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU) and why it is important to her, what she likes to do for fun, what’s next for her and more.

Hey you!! Do somethin nice for your #mama today! #happymothersday

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Michelle Tompkins:  What's new with you these days?

Vicki Lawrence:  Well, I'm just busy, busy. We just got back from working down in the Bayou area of Louisiana and then we went up to Branson and we just got home last night, so busy on the road.

MT:  Is that for your show?

VL:  Yeah, Vicki Lawrence and Mama.

MT:  Mama's Family was one of my favorite shows. I really wish it were back on. I loved it.

VL:  Oh, thanks. I do too. MeTV is running it. God love them. It's now a new audience, which is just incredible to me that it just keeps going.

MT:  Now you're still too young to play the part but getting closer to it though [laughter].

VL:  Yeah, fortunately, I got a part that I could grow into, right?

MT:  Yeah [laughter]. You'll never be too old for Mama.

VL:  People used to ask me how old is Mama? And I remember, because I was 24 when I started playing her, I used to say, "Oh, probably about 65 and holding." And now that I'm there I'm like, "Oh, she's got to be much older than that [laughter]." She's much older than that, don't you think? I don't know. She's probably 75, don't you think?

MT:  Oh, I'd say so but I would hope that every time you get a little older she's still older than you. So when you're 100, she's 107. Now, where are you from?

VL:  I was born and raised Southern California. I am a native, one of the three natives out here [laughter].

MT:  Do you still live in L.A.?

VL:  We live south of L.A. in Long Beach, just perilously close to the Queen Mary and just north of Newport Beach. And it's a little-known area down here called Naples in Long Beach. It's an island that was sort of a development started just after the turn of the century. And we dredged all the canals and didn't get the names out as fast as Venice did. So Venice is Venice and we said, "Screw it. We'll just be Naples." But we've got the canals and the gondoliers and it's a pretty special little spot. It's very special, actually.

MT:  I haven't heard of Naples, California, before and I'm from Northern California and lived in L.A. for a couple of years.

VL:  No, many people haven't. When we have people come down from town without fail they always go, "We had no idea this was here." And it's been here for years, as I said. 1905 is when they subdivided the little lots and there's just fabulous architecture and beautiful gardens and sailboats. Why my son and I were somewhere a week ago when we were doing a celebrity deal and he was talking to somebody and they said they had a long drive back to Hollywood, and he said, "Where do you guys live?" And Garrett said, "We live in Long Beach," and the guy went, "Long Beach [laughter]?" He said, "What the hell's there?" And Garrett said, "Oh breeze, ocean, palm trees, sailboats [laughter]." Yeah, it's pretty nice.

MT:  How did you know that you wanted to be an actor?

VL:  I didn't, Michelle. When I was in high school I honestly figured I was going to go to college, learn to clean teeth, be a dental hygienist, marry a rich dentist and hang it up. That really was sort of my plan based loosely, I guess, on the fact that I kind of have a tooth fetish and I had a terrible crush on our dentist growing up. That's all I can figure. And it's kind of funny because I lived in very close proximity to Hollywood. That's where I went to take all of my dance classes and my dad worked at Max Factor for all the years that I was growing up. So I was in pretty close proximity and I was a big fan letter writer when I was a kid. I wrote to everybody you can think of that was on television and had their autographs all over my room.

Then, along came my senior year in high school and everybody said that I looked like Carol Burnett and I entered a little contest that year called Miss Fireball which was our Fireman's Ball. And they wanted some girls to sing and dance so they decided to have a contest. And the newspaper lady said that I looked like a young Carol Burnett. So my mom said to me, "Why don't you write Carol Burnett a fan letter," so I did. I wrote her a little letter and honestly don't remember seeing her— I remember Once Upon a Mattress and on a show called The Entertainers at the time with Bob Newhart.  I mostly watched that because I had a crush on John Davidson, who was also on the show [laughter]. But it's not like I studied Carol Burnett or anything. But anyway, I wrote her a fan letter and told her everybody thought I looked like her and I'd love to meet her someday and blah blah blah, put my little newspaper article in with the letter. Somehow, it magically landed on her desk. It just so happened that her cousin was her assistant at the time who said, "You need to read this letter [laughter]." She looked at the article and made arrangements to come and see this little contest that I was in.

And honestly, that's how it happened. That's how I met her. I graduated from high school and I did an audition for The Carol Burnett Show that summer. I graduated, what, in June; I did the little audition in, I think, July or August, started on The Carol Burnett Show and UCLA in the same fall. And honestly, feels like, basically, I got kidnapped by show business [laughter]. It was not what I ever intended to do [laughter].

MT:  Was your family supportive of the decision?

VL:  Oh, God, yes. Are you kidding? My mom always wished she had been in show business herself. Yeah, she was pushing, pushing, pushing. Very excited.  It was hard for them that I ultimately dropped out of college. That was very hard. But it was just too hard to keep all the balls in the air. You know what I mean?

MT:  Oh, I bet. Doing the show and UCLA at the same time sounds a little rough.

VL:  Yeah. And our daughter likes to remind me that I've been in the show business for so many years now that I would actually be qualified to teach a course at college [laughter].

MT:  So your first professional acting role was probably The Carol Burnett Show then.

VL:  It was. I sang with a little group in high school called The Young Americans. And so I did have a little bit of experience. That was singing and dancing, but we did some really fun stuff. We got to go on the road with Johnny Mathis and we got to sing at the Great Theatre with Henry Mancini. I mean, we did some really fun stuff. We used to do a lot of Hollywood palaces and, gosh, we did The Andy Williams Show. We did some fun stuff so I had little bit of experience but not comedy, certainly, and not putting together a variety show in five days [laughter]. Yeah, nothing like that.

MT:  You should know that in a piece that I did last year, I actually mentioned The Carol Burnett Show as one of the 10 variety shows that needs to be brought back.

VL:  Oh, well gosh, that would be kind of difficult [laughter].  Very difficult without Harvey. Although we did had dinner not too long ago, Carol and I. And she said, "You know, you're not going to believe this but September is going to be our 50th anniversary."

MT:  Time flies.

VL:  How is that even possible? She said, "I think we need to do something." She hadn't decided what yet but we need to do something. Yeah, so that's really hard to believe.

MT:  Just looking through the clips to find which clip I wanted to include was hard. I ended up going with a song because that's one of the things [laughter] people know the most. But it was fun to watch the other clips just to figure out which one to use. It's funny here that one of the next questions is, is it true that you first connected with Carol Burnett through writing her a fan letter [laughter]? But we've already covered that part.  What is within the letter that you think made it special to her?

VL:  Well, I asked her that and she said, "Honey, you will find as you start getting fan mail that the number of letters you get that are one, written in English and are legible, and two, have actually something interesting to say which, are very few and far between." And even more so nowadays because people just don't write letters anymore. Most all of the mail I get just says, "May I please have your autograph?"

She said, "You'll do fine. You'll see the letters you come across that are really interesting, well written, something you really care about reading."

MT:  Yeah, that makes sense. My dad's written a few fan letters and he has their responses in his office. He had ones from Sir Laurence Olivier, David Niven and a couple others.  So, I guess Carol’s comments are about right. If you write well and have something to say you may get a response.

VL:  Someone might actually read it. And certainly, what happened to me wouldn't happen nowadays. Now, I think people would probably tweet Carol, but she's not on Twitter, so there you have it [laughter].

MT:  Do you still write fan letters to people?

VL:  I write a letter if there is an appropriate occasion to write a letter. Last week, I got a thank you note from my son's new girlfriend who came over for Easter dinner. It was the first time she met the family. And she wrote this lovely thank you note and I was like— I said to Al, "My God, this girl— I mean nobody does that. When is the last time you got a handwritten thank you note?" People text you and that's nice and that's what you get now [laughter].

MT:  Do you have any favorite bits that you like best from The Carol Burnett Show?

VL:  You mentioned “Went with the Wind!” I absolutely loved my character in that. I know she doesn't get the press that the curtain rod and Bob Mackey dress. But that was a pretty dang funny character, Sissy, and I thought that was so well written and so much fun to play. A fun thing about that sketch is that the two kids that wrote that— and I call them kids because they were my age, they were pages at NBC and The Carol Burnett Show was over at CBS. But they were huge fans of The Carol Burnett Show. This was a guy and a gal that wrote together and that was their dream, to be television writers. And so, they wrote because they knew that Carol loved the movie takeoff. They wrote “Went With the Wind!” and sent it over to CBS. And her husband, Joe Hamilton, who was the executive producer at the time, called them in and said, "Would you like to be writers on our show?" And that's how they got on The Carol Burnett Show and that was their maiden voyage, that sketch [laughter].

What is Carol Burnett like?

MT:  What do you like best about Carol Burnett?

VL:  What do I like best? I guess that she's just a probably the nicest, dearest, sweetest person I think I've ever met in my life. Forget that she's in show business. She's just a very, very special lady and I feel like I had the opportunity to learn from the very best. How the business of show business should run. She's just such an amazing example of the kind of person you just don't run into in show business very often anywhere, actually. Very frankly, anywhere.

MT:  She seems like a wonderful lady. Perhaps, just as lovely as are you.

VL:  Oh, she's incredibly special. She's definitely an example to aspire to [laughter]. I remember many times on The Carol Show when I was young and I only had two lines in the whole show, I just remember and Carol saying, "Vicki needs a better punchline." She told me, "Hush, now, yes." And she was just so supportive and so special and I remember many times the older folks that worked on the show saying, "This is not the way it goes, kid. Just wait until you get out into the real world of show business because this ain't [laughter]. That's just a very special place and that's why I got the girl up.  I have often called it the Harvard School comedy [laughter].

MT:  That's the way you would put it. How did the character Mama develop?

VL:  Actually, Mama was written by two of our writers on the show who both have these dysfunctional upbringings. And so they wrote this beautiful homage to their forgotten families. Neither one of them liked their mothers. I mean, that was really— the mother was definitely the centerpiece. And they wrote this beautiful piece, lovingly wrote Mama for Carol and she read the final draft, which she always did before we ever went to a table read and she said, "I want to play Eunice." And they were very upset. Then she said to Bob Mackie, "Don't you think we could make Vicki Mama. I think she'd be really funny Mama."

I mean, I played a lot of old lady characters on that show frankly because everybody goes, "Well, how did you play an old lady?" Well, I play a lot of old lady on Carol's show. She was the star. When she was Shirley Temple, I was the main old school mom. And when she was Rebecca, I was the wicked old housekeeper. It's just the way it went. She said that I would to get to play Mama and the writers are now doubly upset. Then we get to rehearsals and she says, "You guys. I think we have to do this southern because I mean, it is nothing—" she called it Tennessee Waves on asset. And she said, "I think we just got to turn it on here and go southern." So first we did a run through for the writers, they were so upset that they tore down their pads and pencils and walked out. And Carol said, "This is the way I want to do it. This is the way we're going to do it." So that's the way it went on the air and it just got so much positive feedback. Everybody loved it so much.

Carol, I would say, arguably, those are her favorite sketches on the show. I mean, they were much more multi-dimensional but most of the other stuff we did, it was a different kind of comedy for us. And some of those sketches lasted almost half a show. They were like little playlists, but those writers couldn't crank them out fast enough for her. She loved those characters. And ultimately, they ended up being so popular, those writers had a full-time job doing nothing but the family sketches.

MT:  And how did you decide to do the TV show Mama's Family?

VL:  I didn't, really. After we went off the air— well, actually, in the 9th season, 9 of 11 seasons, her husband, he’s gone now, came to me and said, "I want to spin Mama off into her own series." And I said, "Huh?" He said, "I want to do a sitcom and I want you to be the star." And I said, "Well, what about Carol and Harvey?" He said, "We don't need them [laughter]."

And I had just spent nine months pregnant, mind you, so I'm not really ready to jump into an old lady outfit. I'm trying to be cute again [laughter]. He had the whole thing set up and I said, "I don't think I— What happens if it fails?" He said, "Then you'll come back here." I said, "No, I don't want to do this. I can't. I don't want to." Anyway, of course, Carol was thrilled. I saw her the next Monday morning, she said, "This is so great because this means that we still get to do a show." And I'm like, "Whatever."

So now, we flash forward to the end of The Carol Burnett Show and about a year goes by and Carol commissions a special. She has a deal to do a few specials through CBS. One of them, she decides it's going to be called Eunice. And she commissions this teleplay from those two writers, a 90-minute teleplay called Eunice. We were all in Hawaii at the time. She came out of the pool, she threw the script in front of my face and said, "Read that. See if you want to do it." So I read the script and I said, "Well, it's really good but Mama dies in the end." And she said, "Well, don't be greedy [laughter]." It's just I want a good death theme [laughter]. She said, "You want to do this or not?" And I said, "Of course, I do."

So we did Eunice. CBS wasn't crazy about it. They took forever and ever, but when they finally did put it on the air, it did great in the ratings. It didn't air yet when Carol called me and Alice to her house one night for dinner for a screening. Harvey, everybody was there. And as we're getting out of the car to go up to the house, my husband who's not psychic, says to me, "Just get ready for them to ask you to do as a series." I'm like, "Okay. Whatever." Well, no sooner had the credits rolled then everybody is all over me. "You've got to do this as a series. You've got to." And Carol said, "Honey, do this as a series for five years and this old lady will take care of you." And I looked at her eyes and she's just dead serious. I said, "What about you and Harvey?" She said, "You know what, we'll come and play with you in the sandbox once in awhile, but you don't need us." So off we went the Mama's Family.

MT:  I remember so many episodes. It seems like there were so many cool guest stars. I remember Carol Burnett on a couple of them. And I think Betty White and— even Rue McClannahan was in an episode or two. Is that correct?

VL:  Yes. They were in the first season. And then we were like a season and a half on NBC and then NBC cancelled us and we sat around for a year before we went into first-run syndication. And it was during that year break, that I lost both and Rue and Betty to the Golden Girls.  When we into first-run syndication, that necessitated really building a whole new cast.

By the end of Mama's Family, we actually had gone down to a four-day work week. I feel like we were just getting paid to play dress up. It ran like a little generator, the energizer bunny I call her.

MT:  You performed Mama at Betty White's 90th birthday party. Is that right?

VL:  Yes.

MT:   I'll dig around and try and find the clip. Now, can you please tell me about your two-women show?

VL:  Well, we put the show together on the heels of the first Carol Burnett reunion, which CBS, again, wasn't crazy about but they aired it just shortly after 9/11. It was pretty certain that the country was just in love with all those old memories and the show did so incredibly well and was so well-received. And Harvey and Tim had been on the road for quite some time by then having a lot of success with their show and Harvey said to me “Vicki, you've got to put a show together. You would have so much fun. You'd go all over the country. You would absolutely do whatever you want." And I thought it was kind of daunting that I would be the only one on stage for 90 minutes. What do you do because I did learn from the very best lady in the whole world that it's all about keeping that audience happy for 90 minutes.

So, I put together a small little group of people that I really trusted and we literally sort of pushed the furniture back in my living room and said, "Okay, let's do a show." I knew Mama had to be a large part of it because I know how much everybody loves her so basically, I open for Mama. And my half of the show is largely autobiographical where I tell a lot of the fun stories about my life. And then it only takes me a couple minutes to change into Mama so we just run some outtakes and the audience laughs for five minutes, then Mama comes on giving me a chance to say everything I want to say but you can't say.

MT:  It's sort of like the equivalent of a mean little ventriloquist dummy.

VL:  Yeah, kind of.  She gets away with it because she's a crazy old lady and people accept her as a real person.  It's great. She gets to say everything that I wouldn't dare. And it's been really fun. I said, "We have to just push her right on in into the new century and let her comment on everything that's going on in the world." So it's really fun to keep her more topical and let her rant and rave. And it's really a great, fun show.

MT:  So the show is still going on? There is a chance I can finally see it?

VL:  Oh, lord, yes. Yeah. I just tell people to get on my website which is and get on the schedule and find out when I'm going to be in your neighborhood. We're out there quite enough to keep us busy.

MT:  Great. Can you please tell me about Great News?

VL:  Tina Fey is the executive producer. And it's pretty much written and run by Tracey Wigfield and it's just a new little sitcom that's on NBC. I guess they felt towards— NBC bought 10 episodes and I guess towards the end of doing the 10 that were bought, Tracey or Tina or whoever decided that Andrea Martin, who is playing the mother on the show needed a best friend so they sort of put me into the show. They inserted me in briefly into about three episodes. And we just heard the other day that it's been picked up for season two so I'm hopeful maybe my part will grow a little bit. We'll see. It's a really fun little— it's a workplace comedy about a young girl who's an up and coming journalist and her mom gets a job as an intern at that station [laughter] and comedy ensues. There you have it. So my best friend is Andrea Martin.

MT:  Tell me a little bit about your character. What's her name?

VL:  Her name is Angie and Andrea Martin's character, Carol, is almost always on the phone with Angie. And then, I guess, ultimately it seems like, it feels like, I'm going to turn into a friend that kind of leads her astray and gets her in trouble now and then. I'm hoping it would be sort of like— I don't know, an old Laverne and Shirley [laughter].

MT:  Okay.

How Tina Fey picked Vicki Lawrence

VL:  Crazy old ladies that get into trouble or maybe— I don't know. We'll see. I don't know, I'm hopeful.  I guess they were looking to find this friend for Andrea Martin's character and Tina Fey said, "Please, could somebody just please pick up the phone and call Vicki Lawrence [laughter]?" Which they did and my agent said, "Well, she's on the road" and they couldn't figure out the schedule. And I was because they were almost at the end of shooting their 10 episodes when this all happened. And I was reading this whole string of emails and everybody kept suggestion all these actresses for the part and when I finally did get the role, Tracey Wigfield said, "Tina Fey just said to me finally 'Please get Vicki. Figure it out [laughter].'" And I was so flattered. I was just so flattered that of course, I said, "Yes." So it's a tiny little part but I'm hoping it might grow.  It's nice to be liked especially when Tina Fey says she's your big fan. That should be tattooed across your…

It's kind of like when Carol found Harvey, they would be looking so hard for a leading man for her show, and everybody kept saying, "We need like a Harvey Korman type" because he had just finished doing the Danny Kaye Show. And he still had an office at CBS and one day in one of the meetings, Carol said, "For God's sake, has anybody thought to ask Harvey?” So she literally accosted him in the parking lot at CBS, "So would you be interested?" And he said, "Well heck, yeah."

MT:  Great [laughter]. And the rest is history.

VL:  Yeah. So I guess the moral of the story is if you need somebody like somebody, go ask them [laughter].

MT:  Is there a kind of role that you want to play but haven't played yet?

VL:  A grandma, but I don't guess I'm never going to do it. I don't think either one of my kids is ever going to have a grandchild. I guess I'm going to have to kidnap one or borrow one or something. I told the gal that does my nails I said, "I'm going to borrow your baby [laughter]." So she said, "People going to talk Vicki." I said, "I don't care. I need a grandchild."

MT:  You want to borrow an occasional grandchild.

VL:  Yes.! We're going to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary this year, so.

MT:  Congratulations.

VL:  We are very happy and we have lots of dogs. Well, not lots. We have two, though. That's plenty.

MT:  Is your husband retired now?

VL:  Well, he still goes on the road with me. He's sort of basically produces my show so he does all the troubleshooting and sets everything up and then our son directs it. So it's like a nice little family— I always say, "If you can work with your family, there is nothing nicer. If you can't there's nothing worse." But if you can, it's delightful. I mean I have two great guys who totally have my back and it's very easy and comfortable on the road.

MT:  Do you plan to record any more music?

VL:  No [laughter]. No, thank you.

MT:  Was that part a fluke?

VL:  Yeah, it was. I was married to this guy that wrote it for 10 minutes and it was basically the only good thing that came out of the whole marriage. And it ended up being sort of the ultimate demise of that already doomed marriage, so it's kind of a little bittersweet chapter in my life. Yes, I had a good record, but there you have it [laughter].

And you know that was kind of back in the day. You didn't cross pollinate like you do in show business now. Record people didn't do television and television people never did records. If they did, they were definitely one-hit idiots [laughter]. Movie people never did television. It's just now if you're not cross pollinating all over the place, you're nobody.

MT:  Yeah. It makes sense. It's true.

MT:  You've done quite a bit of voiceover work. I know you were in Finding Nemo. Are you doing a lot of other voiceover stuff?

VL:  I do it occasionally, yeah. I wish I did more but— yeah, I wish I would do more. I think it's fun.

What is CIU?

MT:  Now, you're a spokesperson for something called CIU. Can you tell us more about that?

VL:  Yeah. Well, I was about— gosh, I need to do the math - it's probably at least six years ago now. I was diagnosed with CIU which is chronic idiopathic urticaria and come to find out that chronic means that it has lasted for at least six weeks or more. Idiopathic means the doctor cannot tell you why it's happening, so it's not like you ate a bad shrimp or you changed your soap. And urticaria is a fancy word for hives. And when I broke out in hives— I mean, you automatically assume it's something you're allergic to, that you've done stupid that you shouldn't have done. And then when we really can't get it under control, you're off to the allergist or the dermatologist. My allergist, who we've used over the years here in Long Beach for everything, anything said, "We'll get it under control. No worries." And we spent, like I said, six weeks trying everything you can think of that you would do for hives and allergic reaction. At which point, he said to me, "I'm going to diagnose you with chronic idiopathic urticaria," and I've never heard such a mouthful. Oh, he was making it up [laughter]. What the hell was that? Anyway, I, of course, like everybody went home and Googled it. And you get on WebMD, you're searching all over for something and I really couldn't find any information. There were a lot of people talking, asking questions like, "What the heck do I do? What have you done?" But there was no good information. So fortunately for me, I had an allergist who was familiar with the condition and we were able to get my hives under control.

Come to find out there were a million and a half of us in this country that have CIU. And I have talked to many people who have literally been looking for answers for years and just are so frustrated trying to find an answer. So when I had a chance to throw my hives in the ring, if you will, I said, "Yes, I will be the spokesperson for this basically an educational program, CIU & You. And there's a website which will guide people, direct them, educate them. There's a whole video about everything that I went through. There's downloadable materials for people to help them crack their hives. Because I think anybody who's dealt with hives can understand that on the day you actually find the right doctor, your hives may be in remission. So the website will encourage you to track and take pictures. So that you can get that diagnosis sooner rather than later. Because it'll be six weeks before you can get a diagnosis. And then hopefully put together a treatment plan that will keep your hives under control for you. If it's treatable it's not curable, for that million and a half of us, it can come back. I've been hive-free for several years now but that's not to say that it couldn't come back. Because there's no known trigger. That's the thing. So it's frustrating for people because they want to blame themselves. But I have done so many interviews and the stage manager will throw his headset off and go "I got to go call my mom. This is her [laughter]."

So a lot of people out there looking for answers and I'm just hopeful that this—I think now when you've Googled CIU we come up right at or near the top. It's just a great website. It's supported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It's made possible by Genentech and Novartis. And I'm proud to be the face of hives if you will. And get that word out for people. I just hope that the acronym will get out there, CIU, and people will say "Oh yeah. I heard Vicki talking about that" or "Yeah, I saw that interview". So yeah, we're getting word out. Trying to get people some help.

MT:  That's great. No one wants to be itchy.

VL:  No [laughter].

MT:  Which other charities are you involved with?

VL:  Oh gosh. The Humane Society definitely. I try to support, take care of all the little pups. I was having a hell of a time rescuing a lab. Oh, this is lab before last. And I hooked up with the Humane Society which was able to help me get that dog rescued. And sometimes rescuing a dog is harder than adopting a child, I think [laughter]. So I hooked up with the Humane Society and they were very helpful. So I love to support them. And gosh, who else do we support? We're very supportive of our Police Officers Association here in Long Beach. And our Breast Center and I think that's probably about it for me.

Balcony buddies❤️ Lucas is in #love ‼️ #pbgv #shihtzu #rescuedogs #puppylove

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MT:  What do you like to do for fun?

VL:  Well, we were sailors for a lot of years. We've gotten rid of our last sailboat which is not to say we won't get another smaller boat, maybe. Currently, we are down to just a little bay cruiser which is nice. So we love the water. Anything around the water I love cooking. I would say probably cooking is my biggest hobby. I read cookbooks kind of like people read novels [laughter].

And love to get in the kitchen. You know we will get off the road my husband will say, "Honey I'm taking you to dinner tonight" and I'm always like "No, I can't wait to get in the kitchen. We just ate at some horrible restaurants [laughter]". I'd rather do it myself at home. Currently working on redecorating the house which is a big project, but it's a lot of fun. And then our dogs. Our dogs keep us pretty busy too.

MT:  What is something on your bucket list that you haven't done yet but want to do? Other than maybe grandma?

VL:  Actually, I'm clicking off one in a few weeks. Our daughter called me last year she said, "Mom I'm putting in all my paperwork for my tenure." She's an associate, a professor in Colorado. And she said, "I'm pretty sure I'm going to get tenure. And I think that you and I should go to Italy to celebrate." Because she knows that's one of the places I really want to go. I said, "Okay". I wasn't really thinking about it but I said, "Okay". She started planning that trip. So, sure enough, we're taking off for Italy in a couple of weeks. Just she and me. I'm pretty excited about that.

#byebye #ciaociao #arrivaderci @misiacountryresort #orvieto #italy #winecountry

A post shared by Vicki Lawrence (@vickilawrence_official) on

MT:  What does she teach?

VL:  She's in the forestry department. She teaches environmental policy. And I'm extremely thrilled for her that she has gotten her tenure at a time when that is a perilously, I don't know, difficult thing to be teaching or working on or getting funding for. All of that. Yeah, she's lucky and smart.

MT:  I think both your kids been lucky to have both you and your husband. You guys seem incredibly lovely and supportive. Something I've noticed while talking to you is that I like that you're a we person. You say, "we" all the time. It's a different kind of person who thinks of the world as a we rather than as a me. I don't think you see that too often. It seems like you have very close, loving family. I love that.

#happy #Tuesday

A post shared by Vicki Lawrence (@vickilawrence_official) on

VL:  Yes, well we are.

MT:  Last, how do you like fans to connect with you?

VL:  Well, I'm on Instagram, Vicki Lawrence_official and I'm on Twitter as Vicki Lawrence. Or, how about the good old-fashioned fan letter?

Catch Vicki Lawrence on this season's Great News on NBC and find out when Mama will be near you here.

Who would you most like to send a fan letter to, if you knew that they would see it and what would you write?

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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