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Cast of 'Mama's Family' Then and Now Almost 40 Years after the Show First Aired

Titi Dokubo
Aug 24, 2022
08:35 P.M.
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"Mama's Family" first aired almost forty years ago, and even though it was a spin-off from a recurring sketch of "The Family" from "The Carol Burnett Show," it had a timeless appeal.

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The first episode of the 30-minute show, "Mama's Family," first aired on January 22, 1983. From 1983 to 1985, NBC Network produced the show, and from 1986 to 1990, the CBS Television Network picked it up.

The show for enjoyment featured a Southern blue-collar family with a sharp-tongued, gray-haired widow who lived with her journalist sister and a dim-witted son with two kids.

Back row, left to right: Harvey Korman, Ken Berry, Dorothy Lyman, and Rue McClanahan. Middle row, left to right: Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, and Betty White. Front row, left to right: Eric Brown and Karin Argoud on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

Back row, left to right: Harvey Korman, Ken Berry, Dorothy Lyman, and Rue McClanahan. Middle row, left to right: Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, and Betty White. Front row, left to right: Eric Brown and Karin Argoud on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

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The show stood out for its ever-revolving dysfunctional family plot lines, wacky costumes, strong cast, and one-liner comedic insults, which made it the number one syndicated program on television for four consecutive years.

After six seasons and 130 episodes, the show aired its last episode on February 24, 1990. However, it garnered two wins out of eight nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series in 1984.

Some of its cast members were also nominated for various awards, with Vicki Lawrence winning Favorite "Big, Bad Momma" at the 2004 TV Land Award. Here are the details of what happened to the "Mama's Family" cast.

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Top row, left to right: Dorothy Lyman, Harvey Korman, and Betty White. Middle row, left to right: Ken Berry, Vicki Lawrence, and Rue McClanahan. Front row, left to right: Eric Brown and Karin Argoud on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

Top row, left to right: Dorothy Lyman, Harvey Korman, and Betty White. Middle row, left to right: Ken Berry, Vicki Lawrence, and Rue McClanahan. Front row, left to right: Eric Brown and Karin Argoud on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

VICKIE LAWRENCE AS THELMA "MAMA" CROWLEY HARPER

Before becoming an actress and a comedian, Vickie Lawrence, born Vicki Ann Axelrad in Inglewood on March 26, 1949, was already an Academy Award-winning singer.

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Before "Mama's Family," she had starred in "The Carol Burnett Show," "Laverne & Shirley," and "The Love Boat." She had also guest starred on game shows such as "The $10,000 Pyramid" and "Match Game."

Photo of Vickie Lawrence on October 17, 1973 | Source: Getty Images

Photo of Vickie Lawrence on October 17, 1973 | Source: Getty Images

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After the series, Lawrence hosted her daytime talk show "Vicki!," starred in "Hannah Montana," "Yes, Dear," and "Diagnosis Murder." She also has a stage production called "Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show."

Between 1972 and 1974, she married "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" writer Bobby Russell. In 1974, she married makeup artist Al Schultz, and they have two children.

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BEVERLY ARCHER AS IOLA LUCILLE BOYLEN

Beverly Archer, born July 19, 1948, in Illinois, is a writer and an actress. She wrote one episode of "Mama's Family," and her role as Iola Lucille Boylen became one of her most recognizable roles.

Apart from "Mama's Family," she had also starred in "ALF," "Project: ALF," and her second most recognizable role was when she played Gunny Bricker on "Major Dad." She married Robert Bernard in 1976 and retired from acting in 2002.

Photo of Beverly Archer on "The Nancy Walker Show" | Source: Getty Images

Photo of Beverly Archer on "The Nancy Walker Show" | Source: Getty Images

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KEN BERRY AS VINTON HARPER

Ken Berry was born on November 3, 1933, in Illinois. At 13, he wanted to be a dancer after he watched carnival dancers perform. At 16, he joined the Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program and toured towns and several countries.

From dancing, he transitioned to TV, took over for Andy Griffith in "Mayberry R.F.D." and in the spin-off pilot for "The Brady Bunch." He also starred in "Herbie Rides Again" and "The Cat From Outer Space."

Photo of Ken Berry on "Mayberry R.F.D." on April 3, 1968 | Source: Getty Images

Photo of Ken Berry on "Mayberry R.F.D." on April 3, 1968 | Source: Getty Images

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After "Mama's Family," he appeared on TV occasionally and tried theater again for a while. In 1993, Berry starred in the stage production of "From the Top." Early in 1999, he had a guest spot on television.

He married actress and writer Jackie Joseph for 16 years before their divorce. They had three children, an infant son they lost and a son and a daughter they adopted. Berry retired from acting in 2002. At 85, he died of heart complications on December 1, 2018.

Photo of Ken Berry on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

Photo of Ken Berry on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

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DOROTHY LYMAN AS NAOMI OATES HARPER

Dorothy Lyman, born on April 18, 1947, in Minnesota, is an actress and director. She is best known for her role as Naomi Oakes Ray Oates Harper on "Mama's Family" and created the part of Opal Gardner on "All My Children."

She married actor and director John Tillinger, and they had two children before they divorced. She was also married to producer Vincent Malle, and they had one child before they divorced.

Lyman is yet to retire from acting and has starred in "The Northern Kingdom," "Vault," "CSI: Miami," "The Blacklist," "Law & Order," with her most recent role as Donna Roy in a 2022 episode of "The Girl from Plainville."

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Dorothy Lyman at the Chiller Theatre Expo Spring 2019 on April 26, 2019 | Source: Getty Images

Dorothy Lyman at the Chiller Theatre Expo Spring 2019 on April 26, 2019 | Source: Getty Images

ALLAN KAYSER AS BUBBA HIGGINS

Allan Kayser, born December 18, 1963, in Colorado, is an actor, who became known for his role as Bubba Higgins, a juvenile delinquent forced to live with Lawrence's character in "Mama's Family."

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He has also starred in "Night of the Creeps" and "House of Forbidden Secrets." While there he little information about the roles he played after the show, it is known that he ran a dance academy with his first wife, Lori.

The academy was called Lori's Performing Arts Academy. The couple divorced after two children and changed the academy's name to CenterStage Academy for the Performing Arts. He remarried Sara in 2014, and they have two children.

Allan Kayser at the 34th Annual SHARE Boomtown Party on May 16, 1987 | Source: Getty Images

Allan Kayser at the 34th Annual SHARE Boomtown Party on May 16, 1987 | Source: Getty Images

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ERIC BROWN AS VINTON "BUZZ" HARPER, JR.

Eric Brown, born on December 17, 1964, in New York, is known for his role in "Mama's Family." He has also starred in "Waxwork" and "Trouble Bound." He married Shelley Janine Paver the same year the show ended, and they have one child.

Besides bottling his wine, he is also the principal of Brownbridge Strategies, where he consults in strategy and communications for non-profits and foundations. Brown is also the co-host of the "Let's Hear It!" podcast.

Eric Brown and Ken Berry on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

Eric Brown and Ken Berry on "Mama's Family" | Source: Getty Images

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KARIN ARGOUD AS SONJA HARPER

Karin Argoud, born on November 8, 1960, played the role of Sonja Harper for the first two seasons of "Mama's Family" until they wrote her character out of the show.

The actress is also a director known for her work in "Darkroom" and "Nash Bridges." She is married to cinematographer Kevin Morrisey with two children.

Cyril O'Reilly and Karin Argoud on the set of "Darkroom" | Source: Getty Images

Cyril O'Reilly and Karin Argoud on the set of "Darkroom" | Source: Getty Images

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HARVEY KORMAN AS ALISTAIR QUINCE

Harvey Korman, born on February 15, 1927, in Illinois, was a famous comedian known for his comic characterizations and was the leading man on "The Carol Burnett Show."

Before "Mama's Family," he had starred in "The Last of the Secret Agents?," "Blazing Saddles," "High Anxiety," and "History of the World: Part I."

Photo of Harvey Korman for "The Danny Kaye Show" on March 9, 1964 | Source: Getty Images

Photo of Harvey Korman for "The Danny Kaye Show" on March 9, 1964 | Source: Getty Images

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After the show, he voiced the Dictabird on the live-action version of "The Flintstones" and starred in "Radioland Murders." He was married to actress Donna Ehlert for 18 years, and they had two children when they divorced.

In 1982, he married script supervisor Deborah Fritz; they had two children and were together till his death in 2008. Korman died at 81 from complications from an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture.

Harvey Korman at the 15th Annual Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences Hall Of Fame Ceremony on November 6, 2002 | Source: Getty Images

Harvey Korman at the 15th Annual Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences Hall Of Fame Ceremony on November 6, 2002 | Source: Getty Images

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RUE MCCLANAHAN AS AUNT FRAN CROWLEY

Rue McClanahan, born February 21, 1934, in Oklahoma, was a stage actress in the 1950s. She had starred in several shows like "All in the Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Maude," and more before joining "Mama's Family."

However, they wrote out her character, and she joined the "Golden Girls" cast, where her sharp-tongued comedic stride made her extremely famous.

She has also starred in "The Golden Palace," "Nurses," "Empty Nest," "They Might Be Giants," and more. McClanahan was divorced five times, married six times, and had one son from her first marriage. The actress died at 76 on June 3, 2010, after a brain hemorrhage.

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Rue McClanahan at the NBC Summer Press Tour on July 27, 1991 | Source: Getty Images

Rue McClanahan at the NBC Summer Press Tour on July 27, 1991 | Source: Getty Images

BETTY WHITE AS ELLEN HARPER JACKSON

Betty White is one of the most famous stars in Hollywood who also appeared on the "Mama's Family" show. The actress was born on January 17, 1922, in Illinois and had begun her career as a phone girl on an afternoon television show.

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She has also starred in "The Golden Palace," "Golden Girls," "Nurses," and "Empty Nest." White became famous for her role as Rose Nylund in "Golden Girls."

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Betty White was married three times. Her first marriage lasted only five months, while her second marriage barely lasted two years. Her third marriage to Allen Ludden lasted almost two decades; they were together when he died.

She made a conscious decision not to have children but was a stepmother to Ludden's children from his previous marriage. White died on December 31, 2021, after a cerebrovascular accident, 17 days from her 100th birthday.

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