Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on September 09, 2008

Harvey Korman: After 20-years, an overnight success.

Do you have a dream? Something special you hope to accomplish against long odds.

If so, you will especially enjoy today’s story about award-winning comedy actor Harvey Korman, a man who at the age of 40 finally broke through in show business after spending much of his adult life trying to become a working actor.

You may remember Korman, from his ten years and more than 1,000 comedy sketches on “The Carol Burnett Show,” or from the over 30 movies he made. Most notably one of his favorite roles was that of Hedley Lamarr in the comedy classic, “Blazing Saddles.”

But here’s the part of his story that’s important to us today. It’s the pursuit of one’s dream in the face of continuous rejection, heartache and disappointment.

As many actors will tell you, they’re usually unemployed and seldom does anyone call with an acting role for them. And when they do audition for a role, they often compete with numerous other actors and rarely land the role.

Harvey Korman was a very talented and devoted actor, and gifted enough he could have done Shakespearean roles. But for many years, it didn’t seem to matter. He got very little work and a lot of rejection.

As the years went by, while hoping for his big break, he became a car salesman, a waiter, a gas station attendant and took other jobs as well to pay the rent. Korman, like most other actors, took jobs with hours flexible enough to allow him to audition in the event a potential role materialized.

In other words most actors, including Korman put their non-acting professional lives on hold to act even though there are few roles for them.

Early in his career, after attending drama school in New York, “For the next 13 years I tried to get on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway.” Korman said in a 1971 interview with a comment that reflected his many earlier years of frustration.*

Dejected, he finally gave-up acting and returned home to Chicago to work conventional jobs, for he had a wife and eventually two children to support.

But he couldn’t get acting out of his heart. Korman knew he had talent and decided to try again on the other coast, in Hollywood. As usual rejection reigned supreme. Then in 1964 at the age of 37, he got a supporting role on “The Danny Kaye Show.”

Now he had steady work and some visibility in his chosen field.

However, when “The Danny Kaye Show” ended in 1967, Korman was back in the unemployment line, now 40-years-old, with little to show for all those years of dedication to his craft.

Then at long last his big break came.

That year, Korman landed a major role on a new comedy series comprised of a group of largely unknown actors in a show with little chance of success. It was “The Carol Burnett Show,” and it quickly became a huge hit, making him a star.

For the next ten years, he starred on “The Carol Burnett Show,” as he also did movies, TV guest appearances on other shows and found himself a very busy actor, doing what he loved.

For the rest of his life Korman kept acting, often with one of the Burnett co-stars, Tim Conway. He worked until just several months before his recent passing at the age of 81, fulfilling a dream he had pursued seemingly in vain before finally getting the opportunities he had always hoped for.

Success Tip of the Week: If you have dream, this week take the first steps to make it come true. It could be as simple as researching what it would take to become successful in that field. If you do, your confidence could grow and lead you to pursue it with all of your heart.

Editor's Note:

*Quote from The New York Times obit, “Harvey Korman of ‘Burnett Show’ Dies at 81” (5/30/08)

In the next KazanToday: A severely disabled woman who refused to accept society’s limitations on her and uplifted herself and many other disabled people.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!