"Of course, that's my husband's (Al Shultz) nightmare that she is me," Lawrence jokes. "That he'll roll over in bed one morning and she'll be lying there. He won't hardly speak to me when I'm in that drag. He just says, ‘Just get that old lady out of my face.'"
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Lawrence credits Korman, who died at age 81 in 2008, for helping her turn make Mama into the three-dimensional character on the sitcom.
"Otherwise, I don't think that it would ever would have worked," she said.
"Mama's Family," which was the only show to spin off from "The Carol Burnett Show," premiered on NBC in January 1983 before being canceled in May 1984. The network continued running reruns of the show until 1986 when "Mama's Family" went into first-run syndication. In 1990, "Mama's Family" finally ended it run.
Lawrence said there was always something about Thelma Harper that people connected with.
"I always think of her in the same way as Archie Bunker," Lawrence said. "We all know him, we all have one in our family. But no one ever fesses up to being him, so no one is ever really offended by him. I've never had anyone come up to me and say, ‘Oh my god, I'm you or you're me.' I'm always their aunt or their grandmother, or their mom, but I'm never them, so no one's ever offended."
It was more than 10 years before Lawrence decided to don Mama's gray wig and take her out on the road.
Lawrence said soon after Sept. 11, 2001, "The Carol Burnett Show" cast had a televised reunion. She said the next morning Burnett had called her, blown away by the response the show had in ratings.
At the time, Korman and Conway had found success on the road putting on a show.
"It was Harvey again who said, 'You should do this, you would have a ball doing this. You could do what you want, you could tailor it exactly to what you want to do — and you could have a blast," she said.
After they put the show together — with the help of her husband, her son, a writing partner she's been with since her talk show, "Vicki," a friend who put together the music and some friends from "Mama's Family," they opened in Las Vegas in 2002.
Lawrence admits she was a nervous wreck about opening on stage. "I asked my agent, ‘But aren't we supposed to start somewhere small?'"
The woman who had been working since her teens with an ensemble cast was now on the stage by her self.
"The first night you walk out all by yourself on a big stage, you said, 'I hope ... I'm right,'" Lawrence said. "What I've come to realize since I've been doing this show, you're never alone. The audience is along with you for the ride every night. And every audience is different, so every night we have a different vibe, you don't know what's going to happen and it makes it really fun."
Lawrence has found another legion of fans when she played Mamaw Ruthie Stewart, the grandmother to Hannah (Miley Cyrus) on Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana."
"I can't buy Girl Scout cookies anymore," she said. "My cover has been blown."
But how would Mamaw Stewart and Thelma Harper get along?
"I think Mamaw would be patient with her because she's a good, strong Southern lady," she said. "I don't know, they might get into it they're both strong ladies, but I think they'd get along fine."
If you go ...
What: "Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two Woman Show"
When: 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28
Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
Cost: $49 and $39
To purchase tickets, call 301-790-3500 or go to www.mdtheatre.org.