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From 1967 through 1978, the musical variety show was kept alive by the heart-lung machine that was Carol Burnett. A staple of early television, the genre had already largely gone out of style when she started; by 1979, there wasn’t a single original prime-time variety series on the fall schedule. With Laughter at 10 O’Clock: Memories of The Carol Burnett Show, the American Century Theater opens a time-capsule tribute to the show. The audience is incorporated into a fictional TV taping in 1973, complete with applause instructions from the line producer. The sketches are taken from real shows—which, unfortunately, don’t hold up. They vary on a few standard comic situations—bringing a wacky finance(e) home to meet the future in-laws, for example, gets two outings, once with a mermaid and once with a guy who thinks he’s a cat. Too much comedy has happened over the past 20 years. Even one of Burnett’s best-known movie parodies, “Gone With the Breeze,” is much less funny than the memory of it: The sight of Scarlett rolling down a staircase just doesn’t make it after watching the mermaid falling off a couch, a patient falling off an operating table, and the cat man rolling around on the floor with a ball of yarn. The laugh-out-loud parts of the evening, in fact, aren’t the main course—the sketches—but, rather, the side dishes—impersonations of such ’70s music/variety staples as Anthony Newley, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Sonny and Cher. Accustomed to the Vegas stage, these performers didn’t cut back on the sequins, makeup, or big finishes to suit starker sets or the small screen, and the “guest stars” on Laughter at 10 O’Clock capture that incongruity and unintended camp. Capitol Steps member Nancy Dolliver channels the rubber-faced comedienne, doing an especially eerie job when pulling the big comic mug or unleashing a trademark growl when reaching the end of her patience. But no performance is funnier than Scott Kenison and Karen Hayes’ rendition of second-tier Rat Packers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. With the help of Michele Reisch’s note-perfect pastel-piped tux, Kenison kills with a lift of his eyebrows and a shimmy of his shoulders. And put anyone in an Indian headdress and have her sing “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves”—let alone Kathryn Fuller as Cher—and you have to be made of stone (or under 20?) not to laugh. In the end, Laughter at 10 O’Clock owes as much to generic ’70s nostalgia as to The Carol Burnett Show, with Jack Marshall’s direction capturing the look and pace of many shows of the period. Punch lines like “Does Raquel Welch sleep on her back?” take you back to a simpler time, when huge boobs were gifts from God, not a commodity to be bought at any strip mall surgi-center.—Janet Hopf