Harvey Korman

Ron Galella/WireImage.com

Harvey Korman was always good—if not better than most—for a laugh.

The Emmy-winning actor, best known for his rib-tickling antics on The Carol Burnett Show and one of Mel Brooks' favorite go-to funnymen, died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center. He was 81.

According to the hospital, Korman died of complications from an abdominal aortic aneurysm that ruptured four months ago.

While his most memorable film role had to be his turn as the overly sensitive Hedley Lamarr in Brooks' classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles, it was Korman's work in parody sketches such as "Went With the Wind" and "As the Stomach Turns" during his 10 years on The Carol Burnett Show that made him a top comedian.

Korman, a former Navy man who couldn't make it on Broadway but had comic timing to spare, won four Emmy Awards while on the show.

"Carol is absolutely devastated," said Burnett's personal assistant, Angie
Horejsi said. "She loved him very much."

In the late 1990s, he and Carol Burnett costar Tim Conway teamed for a successful traveling act, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman: Together Again, that lasted until December, with the septuagenarians performing up to 120 dates a year.

"I don't know whether either one of us was the straight man," Conway told the Los Angeles Times Thursday. "The most important thing in comedy when you're working together is for one guy to know when to shut up. And we both knew when to shut up; quiet show, actually."

In addition to Blazing Saddles, Korman appeared in the Brooks films High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

"A world without Harvey Korman—it's a more serious world," Brooks said. "It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we'd crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh."

But aside from his "dazzling" comedic talent, Brooks said, "Harvey was such a good solid actor that he could have done Shakespearean drama just as well and easily as he did comedy."

Over the years, he made dozens of guest-star appearances in TV series such as ER, Roseanne, The Love Boat, Perry Mason and Burke's Law, and showed up in a number of films, including two of the Pink Panther sequels and the big-screen adaptation of Gypsy.

Korman is survived by his wife Deborah; daughters Kate, Laura and Maria; son Chris and three grandchildren.

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