Carol Burnett had a lot to reminisce about at the NBC tribute special Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love, which aired on Wednesday. At 90 years old, with close to seven decades of experience under her belt, the actress and comedian sat in the audience surrounded by generations of talent who learned from the best in show business by studying her work. During the special, Katy Perry took the stage to deliver a theatrical performance of Burnett’s classic theme song, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together.”
During the performance, the screen above the stage presented images of Burnett with some of her most notable Carol Burnett Show guests. Among them appeared Cher, who used her speech during the special to credit the host with helping her stand on her own as she found her identity outside of Sonny + Cher. The slideshow also featured stills from Burnett’s role as Miss Hannigan in Annie (1982).
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” Burnett told NBC Insider about the special. “I keep feeling like I’m 11…I feel very fortunate, and I’ve said this before: I’m happy. I’ve got all my parts. My hips, I’ve got my knees, my brain. So far, so good.”
For the song’s final verse, which Burnett’s former husband Joe Hamilton wrote for her, Perry made her way into the audience to share the moment with the night star. “I’m so glad we had this time together/Just to have a laugh or sing a song/Seems we just get started and before you know it,” she sang before passing the microphone to Burnett to bring it all home: “Comes the time we have to say, “So long.”
During the show’s run from 1967 to 1978, Burnett closed out every episode of The Carol Burnett Show with those same lyrics. Even when she moved on from the sketch-comedy series to the short-lived Carol Burnett & Company, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together” remained her closing theme song. “Oh god, thank you everybody,” she told the audience after singing with Perry. At the very end, she tugged on her ear, which she also did at the end of every episode. It was a silent signifier that she was thinking of her grandmother.
Earlier this week, Burnett appeared on The Kelly Clarkson Show for another performance of the song, that time getting to sing more than just one lyric. Even then, in the middle of their duet, she tugged on her ear.