As a comedienne and actress, Lawrence is best known for her work on The Carol Burnett Show, of which she was a part from 1967 to 1978. She was the only cast member, except for Burnett herself, who stayed on the show for the entire eleven seasons.
Lawrence's ascension to become part of the Burnett show is part of Hollywood legend; she was hired for the show on the basis of a letter she sent to Burnett and the producers, with a photograph of Lawrence that clearly showed her resemblance to Burnett. Despite her beginner's status, Lawrence proved to be a valuable part of the comedic team on the show, and played many memorable characters, particularly Thelma Harper (a.k.a., "Mama") in the recurring "Family" sketches. It was decided that Lawrence only needed a grey-blue wig and body padding to transform her into "Mama." Viewers didn't notice or care that no make-up was used to make her appear older.
After The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, Vicki and her husband Al moved with their children to Maui in Hawaii but after a couple of years, returned to Los Angeles where they have remained.
Her portrayal of the "Mama" character was so popular that NBC created a sitcom, Mama's Family, based on characters from the skit. (Burnett reprised the Eunice Higgins character for the sitcom from time to time.) The series ran from 1983 to 1985 on NBC; after its cancellation from NBC, it was renewed from 1986 to 1990 in first-run syndication. The show was more successful in the renewed version. She also reprised the "Mama" character on stage for Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.
Lawrence has made appearances on other programs, such as the sitcoms Laverne & Shirley (as the girls' mean drill sergeant, Alvinia T. Plout), Major Dad, Roseanne, Hannah Montana and Yes, Dear. She has also appeared with Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway in the Burnett show retrospectives that were broadcast in 1993, 2001 and 2004.
Lawrence played 'Mamaw Stewart' (the mother of Robby Ray Stewart and grandmother of Jackson and Miley Stewart) in the hit Disney series Hannah Montana, alongside Billy Ray Cyrus, and his daughter Miley Cyrus.
Lawrence recently played as "Mama" on an Ohio commercial, promoting that casinos be brought into Ohio.
Lawrence played Dan's old high school flame, Phyllis, in an episode of Roseanne.
She appeared on a special celebrity edition episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link. Playing for a charity, she made it to the final two, but ended up losing to Ed Begley Jr.