Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

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Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Rowan martin laugh in photo.jpg
Dan Rowan (left) and Dick Martin (right), 1968
Also known as Laugh-In
Genre Variety Show
Created by Ed Friendly
George Schlatter
Directed by Gordon Wiles
Mark Warren
Starring Dan Rowan
Dick Martin
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 140 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 45–48 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run January 22, 1968 (1968-01-22)  – March 12, 1973 (1973-03-12)
Chronology
Related shows Turn-On
Super Laff-In (Philippines version)
Letters to Laugh-In
Baggy Pants and the Nitwits

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (often simply referred to as Laugh-In) is an American sketch comedy television program that ran for 140 episodes from January 22, 1968, to March 12, 1973, on the NBC television network. It was hosted by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and featured, at various times, Chelsea Brown, Johnny Brown, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Richard Dawson, Moosie Drier, Henry Gibson, Teresa Graves, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Larry Hovis, Sarah Kennedy, Jeremy Lloyd, Dave Madden, Pigmeat Markham, Gary Owens, Pamela Rodgers, Barbara Sharma, Jud Strunk, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin and Jo Anne Worley.

Laugh-In originally aired as a one-time special on September 9, 1967 and was such a success that it was brought back as a series, replacing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Mondays at 8 pm (EST). The title of the show was a play on the "love-ins" or "be-ins" of the 1960s hippie culture, terms that were, in turn, derived from "sit-ins", common in protests associated with civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the time.

In 2002, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.[1]

Background[edit]

Laugh-In had its roots in the humor of vaudeville and burlesque, but its most direct influences were from the comedy of Olsen and Johnson (specifically, their free-form Broadway revue Hellzapoppin'), the innovative television works of Ernie Kovacs, and the topical satire of That Was The Week That Was. The show was characterized by a rapid-fire series of gags and sketches, many of which conveyed sexual innuendo or were politically charged. The co-hosts continued the exasperated straight man (Rowan) and "dumb" guy (Martin) act which they had established as nightclub comics. This was a continuation of cartoonist Chic Young's "Dumb Dora", and acts from vaudeville, best popularized by Burns and Allen.

Episodes[edit]

Caricatures of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin by Sam Berman

Each episode followed a somewhat similar format, often including recurring sketches. The show started with a short dialogue between Rowan and Martin. Shortly afterward, Rowan would intone: "C'mon Dick, let's go to the party". This live to tape segment comprised all cast members and occasional surprise celebrities dancing before a 1960s "Mod" party backdrop, delivering one- and two-line jokes interspersed with a few bars of dance music (later adopted on The Muppet Show, which had a recurring segment that was similar to "The Cocktail Party" with absurd moments from characters). The show then proceeded through rapid-fire comedy bits, pre-taped segments, and recurring sketches.

At the end of every show, Dan Rowan turned to his co-host and said, "Say good night, Dick", to which Martin replied, "Good night, Dick!". The show then featured cast members opening panels in a psychedelically-painted "joke wall" and telling jokes. As the show drew to a close and the applause died, executive producer George Schlatter's solitary clapping continued even as the screen turned blank and the production logo, network chimes, and NBC logo appeared.

Although most episodes include most of the above segments, the arrangement of the segments were often interchanged.

The show often featured guest stars. Sometimes the guest had a prominent spot in the program, at other times the guest would pop up in short "quickies" (one- or two-liner jokes) interspersed throughout the show. While the guest was available, other bits were recorded, and would be added to other episodes of the series.

Cast[edit]

Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi in a 1968 Halloween skit
Rita Hayworth reprised her Sadie Thompson character on the show in 1971

Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson and Jo Anne Worley appeared in the pilot special from 1967. Only the two hosts, announcer Gary Owens, and Carne, Gibson, and Johnson were in all 14 episodes of season one. Eileen Brennan, Hovis, and Roddy Maude-Roxby left after the first season.

The second season saw a handful of new people, including Alan Sues, Dave Madden, and Chelsea Brown. All of the new cast members from the second season left at the end of that season, except Alan Sues who stayed on until 1972.

At the end of the 1968–69 season, Judy Carne chose not to renew her contract, though she did make appearances during 1969–70; producer George Schlatter blamed her for breaking up the "family." The show also survived the departures of Goldie Hawn and Jo Anne Worley to remain a top-20 show in 1970–71. Schlatter tried to replace Hawn with other wide-eyed starlets acting dumb: first Pamela Rodgers, then Sarah Kennedy, and finally Donna Jean Young, but Hawn's ditzy characterization proved inimitable.

The third season saw several new people who only stayed on for that season, Teresa Graves, Jeremy Lloyd, Pamela Rodgers, and Stu Gilliam. Lily Tomlin joined in the middle of the season. Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn, and Judy Carne left after the season.

New faces in the 1970–71 season included tall, sad-eyed Dennis Allen, who alternately played quietly zany characters and straight man for anybody's jokes; comic actress Ann Elder, who also contributed to scripts, tap dancer Barbara Sharma, who would later appear on Rhoda, and beefy Johnny Brown, who played the superintendent Nathan "Buffalo Butt" Bookman on Good Times.

Arte Johnson, who created many characters, insisted on star billing, apart from the rest of the cast. The producer mollified him, but had announcer Gary Owens read Johnson's credit as a separate sentence: "Starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin! And Arte Johnson! With Ruth Buzzi ..." This maneuver gave Johnson star billing, but made it sound like he was still part of the ensemble cast. Johnson left the show after the 1970–71 season. NBC aired the pilot for his situation comedy Call Holme, but it never became a series.

Henry Gibson also departed after the 1970–71 season. He and Johnson were replaced by Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis, both of whom had appeared occasionally in the first season. Both of them were on Hogan's Heroes. However, the loss of Johnson's many characters caused ratings to drop farther. The show celebrated its 100th episode during the 1971–72 season, with Carne, Worley, Johnson, Gibson, Graves, and Tiny Tim all returning for the festivities. John Wayne was also on hand for his first cameo appearance since 1968.

For the show's final season (1972–73), Rowan and Martin assumed the executive producer roles from George Schlatter (known on-air as "CFG", which stood for "Crazy Fucking George") and Ed Friendly. Except for holdovers Dawson, Owens, Buzzi, and only occasional appearances from Tomlin, a new cast was brought in. This final season featured future Match Game panelist Patti Deutsch, folksy singer-comedian Jud Strunk, and ventriloquist act Willie Tyler and Lester. Deutsch, Strunk, and Tyler caught on to the spirit of the show and made valuable contributions (Deutsch did celebrity impressions — in the presence of the celebrity — and took over Worley's role in "The Farkel Family"). The shows were still amusing, but without the usual gang, viewers didn't respond as they once had.

These last shows never aired in the edited half-hour rerun syndicated (through Lorimar Productions) to local stations in 1983 and later on Nick at Nite. The cable network Trio started airing the show in its original one-hour form in the early 2000s, but only the pilot and the first 69 episodes (extending to the fourth episode of the 1970–71 season) were included in Trio's package. Two "Best-of" DVD packages are also available; they only contain six episodes each.

Of over three dozen entertainers to grace the cast, only Rowan, Martin, Owens and Buzzi were there from beginning to end. However, Owens was not in the 1967 pilot and Buzzi missed two first-season episodes.

Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn later became noted film stars (Hawn won an Academy Award while still a member of the cast; Tomlin was later nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1975 for Nashville). Hawn and Eileen Brennan co-starred in the 1980 film Private Benjamin, for which both received Academy Award nominations. Henry Gibson later co-starred in the Robert Altman film Nashville and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Ruth Buzzi became a regular on the Sesame Street children's television series and would star in a Canadian-inspired version of Laugh-In called Whatever Turns You On, which itself was the basis for yet another Laugh-In-inspired series, You Can't Do That On Television. Dave Madden, whose trademark was to throw confetti (representing an unspoken impure thought) while keeping a dour expression at the punchline of a joke, played Reuben Kincaid on the television sitcom The Partridge Family. Richard Dawson, who previously had a regular supporting role on the sitcom Hogan's Heroes, went on to success on the game shows Match Game and Family Feud. Larry Hovis, also a regular on Hogan's Heroes, appeared on Laugh-In during the first and the fifth seasons. Teresa Graves parlayed her season on the show into the title role of the police drama Get Christie Love! Flip Wilson took Geraldine and his other characters to his own variety show from 1970 through 1974.

Cast tenures[edit]

John Wayne and Tiny Tim help celebrate the 100th episode in 1971

Regular guest performers[edit]

Series writers[edit]

Laugh-In writers included: George Schlatter, Jack Mendelsohn, Lorne Michaels, Phil Hahn, Jim Mulligan, Jack Hanrahan, Gene Farmer, Jim Abell, Bill Richmond, Don Reo, Allan Katz, Jack Wohl, Larry Siegel, John Rappaport, Allan Manings, Jack Margolis, Bob Howard, John Jay Carsey, Richard Goren (also credited as Rowby Greeber and Rowby Goren), Chris Bearde (credited as Chris Beard), Chet Dowling, David Panich, Marc London, Paul Keyes,[2] Dave Cox, Jack Kaplan, Stephen Spears, Hugh Wedlock Jr., Coslough Johnson (Arte Johnson's younger brother), Hart Pomerantz, Barry Took, Digby Wolfe, Jeremy Lloyd.

Musical direction and production numbers[edit]

The Musical Director for Laugh-In was Ian Bernard. He wrote the opening theme music, plus the infamous "What's the news across the nation" number. He also wrote all the cute musical "play-ons" that introduced comedy sketches like Lilly Tomlin's character, Edith Ann, the little girl who sat in a giant rocking chair, and Arte Johnson's old man who always got hit with a purse. He also appeared in many of the cocktail scenes where he directed the band as they stopped and started between jokes. Composer-lyricist Billy Barnes wrote all of the original musical production numbers in the show. Barnes is the creator of the famous Billy Barnes Revues of the 1950s and 1960s, and composed such popular hits as "(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair", recorded by Barbra Streisand and the jazz standard "Something Cool" recorded by June Christy.

Post-production[edit]

The show was recorded at NBC's Burbank facility using two-inch quadruplex videotape. Since computer-controlled online editing had not been invented at the time, post-production video editing of the montage was achieved by the error-prone method of visualizing the recorded track with ferrofluid and cutting it with a razor blade or guillotine cutter and splicing with video tape, in a manner similar to film editing. This had the incidental benefit of ensuring that the master tape would be preserved, since a spliced tape could not be recycled for further use. Laugh-In Editor Arthur Schneider won an Emmy Award in 1968 for his pioneering use of the "jump cut" – the unique editing style in which a sudden cut from one shot to another was made without a fade-out.

When the series was restored for airing by the Trio Cable Network in 1996, the aforementioned edits became problematic for the editors as the adhesive used on the source tape had deteriorated during 20+ years of storage; making many of the visual elements at the edit points unusable. This was corrected in digital re-editing by removing the problematic video at the edit point and then slowing down the video image just before the edit point; time-expanding the slowed-down section long enough to allot enough time to seamlessly re-insert the audio portion from the removed portion of video.

Recurring sketches and characters[edit]

Rowan and Martin with Judy Carne in 1967

Sketches[edit]

Frequently recurring Laugh-In sketches included:

  • Judy Carne is often tricked into saying "Sock it to me", which leads to her being doused with water or otherwise assaulted. ("It may be rice wine to you, but it's still sake to me!")
  • "The Mod, Mod World" segment, with its own signature tune, comprises brief sketches on a theme interspersed with film footage of female cast members go-go dancing in bikinis, their bodies painted with punchy phrases and pithy wordplay. The dancers are usually Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne and Chelsea Brown; and occasionally Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley, as well as frequent guest Pamela Austin. In the 1969–70 season, the chore is handled briefly by new cast members Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers, before the go-go dancing became the domain of uncredited extras. Beginning with the 1969–70 season, a cast member would occasionally say a one-liner as well while the dancing took place.
  • The Farkel Family, a couple with many kids—all of whom have flaming red hair and freckles like neighbor Ferd Berfel (played by Dick Martin). Head of the family Frank Farkel (Rowan) never questions this fact when Ferd visits. Most plots are excuses to force the cast into alliterative tongue-twisters ("That's a fine-looking Farkel flinger you found there, Frank"). Bespectacled baby daughter Flicker Farkel (played by Buzzi) has no lines except screaming "Hiiii!" Two of the kids are twins named Simon and Gar Farkel (played by cast members of different races; originally Goldie Hawn and Chelsea Brown, later Pamela Rodgers and Teresa Graves). This sketch is a variation on the Milkman joke, as it pertains to why the children looked like Berfel.
  • The Judge. Originally portrayed by British comic Roddy Maude-Roxby as a stuffy magistrate with black robe and powdered wig. Each "Judge" sketch would feature an unfortunate defendant brought before the court. Guest star Flip Wilson introduced the sketch with "Here come de judge!," the venerable catchphrase of black nightclub comedian Pigmeat Markham. Markham was surprised that his trademark had been appropriated, and he petitioned producer George Schlatter to let him play The Judge himself. Schlatter complied and Markham sat atop the bench for one season. The sketches were briefly retired until another guest star, Sammy Davis, Jr., donned the judicial robe and wig. Davis immediately made The Judge his own, using a drawling dialect reminiscent of "Kingfish" Tim Moore, and enthusiastically playing every courtroom scene broadly. Davis even introduced his own sketches, strutting across a bare stage in Judge regalia and chanting in couplets ("If your lawyer's sleepin', better give him a nudge! Everybody look alive, 'cause here come de judge! Here come de judge!" – followed by a cutaway of the entire cast announcing "Order in the courtroom – here come de judge!").
  • "Laugh-In Looks at the News", a parody of network news, introduced by an unjournalistic song and dance chorus line including the female cast members, and often a female guest celebrity (or on one occasion, Don Rickles in a tutu). It comments on current events. The segment often includes "News of the Past" which lampoons historical events, and "News of the Future", predicting unlikely or bizarre future stories to comic effect. Rowan actually nailed some, mentioning "President Ronald Reagan" in a story from "1988, 20 years from now," as well as a future item "from 1989," the fall of the Berlin Wall (replaced by East Germany with "a moat full of alligators"). The news segment is reminiscent of BBC's earlier That Was the Week That Was and in turn, was echoed a few years later by Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segments. Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels was a Laugh-In writer early in his career.
  • New Talent Time, introduces oddball variety acts. The most famous of these performers is Tiny Tim. Comedian Paul Gilbert, father of actress Melissa Gilbert, appears as inept "French" juggler "Paul Gilbert" (pronounced "jheel-bare" in the French manner). Comic Art Metrano appears as "The Great Metrano," a so-called magician who had no skill at all. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy appears once in 1968. Laugh-In writer Chris Bearde liked the "New Talent" concept and later developed it into The Gong Show.
  • The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, salutes actual dubious achievements by the government or famous people, such as the announcement of a new Veterans Administration hospital to be erected in Southern California shortly after another such facility was destroyed in the Sylmar earthquake of 1971. The trophy is a gilt, outstretched finger atop a square base. "The flying, fickle finger of fate" was already a familiar catchphrase on the show (Dan Rowan would use the phrase when ushering "new talent" like Tiny Tim on stage).
  • Henny Youngman would appear to tell one-liner jokes for apparently no reason. Often, corny one-liners would be followed by the line, "Oh, that Henny Youngman!"
  • "Quickies", a series of rapid-fire sketches.
  • Opening NBC logo – the Laramie Peacock becomes animated by sneezing at the end, causing its feathers to fly off.

Characters[edit]

  • Dan Rowan, in addition to hosting, appears as a character known as General Bull Right, a far-right-wing representative of the military establishment and outlet for political humor.
  • Announcer Gary Owens regularly stands in an old-time radio studio with his hand cupped over his ear, making announcements, often with little relation to the rest of the show, such as (in an overly-dramatic voice), "Earlier that evening..."
  • Arte Johnson's characters:
    • Wolfgang the German soldier – Wolfgang would comment on the previous gag by saying "Verrry interesting", sometimes with comments such as "...but shtupid!" He eventually would close each show by talking to Lucille Ball as well as the cast of Gunsmoke — both airing opposite Laugh-In on CBS; as well as whatever was on ABC. Johnson would later repeat the line while playing Nazi-themed supervillain Virman Vundabar on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.
    • Tyrone F. Horneigh (pronounced "hor-NIGH," presumably to satisfy the censors) – A dirty old man coming on to Gladys Ormphby (Ruth Buzzi) seated on a park bench, who almost invariably clobbers him with her purse. (Both Tyrone and Gladys became animated characters in the "Nitwits" segments of the 1977 animated television show, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits.) A sample exchange:
      Tyrone: Do you believe in the hereafter?
      Gladys: Of course I do!
      Tyrone: Good. Then you know what I'm here after!
    • Piotr Rosmenko, the Eastern European Man, who stands stiffly and nervously in an ill-fitting suit while commenting on differences between America and "the old country," such as "Here in America, is very good, everyone watch television. In old country, television watches you!" This predated a similar schtick by Yakov Smirnoff. Occasionally guest star Sammy Davis, Jr. teams with Johnson as "The Rosmenko Twins."
    • Rabbi Shankar (a pun on Ravi Shankar), an Indian guru who dresses in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudo-mystical Eastern wisdom laden with bad puns. He holds up two fingers in a peace sign whenever he spoke.
    • An unnamed "man in a yellow raincoat" and hat, riding a tricycle, then tipping over and falling, frequently used between sketches.
  • Ruth Buzzi's characters:
    • Gladys Ormphby – A drab, though relatively young spinster who is the eternal target of Arte Johnson's Tyrone; when Johnson left the series, Gladys retreated into recurring daydreams, often involving marriages to historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and Benjamin Franklin (both played by Alan Sues). She would typically hit people repeatedly with her purse. The character was re-created, along with Tyrone, in Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi also performed as Gladys on Sesame Street and The Dean Martin Show, most notably in the Celebrity Roasts.
    • Doris Swizzle – A seedy barfly paired with her husband, Leonard Swizzle, played by Dick Martin.
    • Busy Buzzi – A Hedda Hopper/Louella Parsons-style gossip columnist.
  • Henry Gibson's recurring roles:
    • The Poet who would hold an over-sized flower and read offbeat poems. He pronounces his name "Henrik Ibsen".
    • The Parson – A character who makes ecclesiastical quips and, in 1970, officiates at a near-marriage for Tyrone and Gladys.
  • Goldie Hawn is best known as the giggling "dumb blonde", stumbling over her lines, especially when she introduced Dan's "News of the Future". In the earliest episodes she recited her dialogue sensibly and in her own voice, but as the series progressed she adopted a Dumb Dora character with a higher-pitched giggle and a vacant expression, which endeared her to viewers.
The Tasteful Lady entertains Rita Hayworth, 1971
  • Lily Tomlin's characters:
    • Ernestine/Miss Tomlin – An obnoxious telephone operator with no concern for her customers ("'Fair'? Sir, we don't have to be fair. We're the phone company.").
    • Edith Ann – A child who ends each of her short monologues with: "And that's the truth", followed by "Pbbbt!" . Tomlin performs her skits in an over-sized rocking chair that makes her appear small.
    • Mrs. Earbore (the "tasteful lady") – A society matron, Mrs. Earbore would express quiet disapproval about a tasteless joke or remark, and then rise from her chair with her legs spread, and sometimes gets doused with a bucket of water. Tomlin later performed Ernestine for Saturday Night Live and Happy New Year, America (hosting the latter in character), and Edith Ann on children's shows such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company.
  • Judy Carne had two characters known for their robotic speech and movement:
    • Mrs. Robot in "Robot Theater" – A female companion to Arte Johnson's "Mr. Robot", both equally inept, are a satire of Shields and Yarnell (popular mimes of the period) who performed a routine as a robotic couple called, "The Clinkers".
    • The talking Judy Doll, who is usually played with by Arte Johnson, who never heeded her warning: "Touch my little body, and I hit you!"
  • Jo Anne Worley sometimes sings off-the-wall songs using her loud operatic voice, but is better remembered for her mock outrage at "chicken jokes" and her melodic outcry of "Bo-ring!".
  • Alan Sues usually appears as:
    • Big Al – A clueless and fey sports anchor who loves ringing his "Featurette" bell, which he calls his "tinkle."
    • Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal – short-tempered host of a children's show, who usually goes on the air with a hangover: "Oh, kiddies, Uncle Al had too much medicine last night."
    • Jo Anne Worley. One of the very few times a Laugh-In cast member imitated a fellow cast member, Sues would pose in Worley's makeup and wardrobe and imitate her clarion-call "Bo-ring!"
    • Boomer – self-absorbed "jock" bragging about his athletic exploits.
  • Barbara Sharma, as the dancing meter-maid who tickets anything from trees to baby carriages, and often praises vice president Spiro Agnew, calling him 'Pres-ee-dent Agnew.'
  • Richard Dawson appears as Hawkins the Butler, who would always start his piece by asking "Permission to...?" and proceed to fall over.
  • Flip Wilson would appear as his character, the female Geraldine, originating the catchphrases "What you see is what you get" and "The devil made me do it". Geraldine would often use them to excuse her quirky behavior.

Memorable moments[edit]

The first season featured some of the first music videos seen on network TV, with cast members appearing in films set to the music of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Bee Gees, the Temptations, the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the First Edition.

The show gave prominence to singer Tiny Tim, a gawky man with long, dark hair, a prominent nose, and a cheap suit. During the "New Talent Time" segment, he sang in falsetto while accompanying himself on ukulele. Dick Martin would often be shown alongside Tiny Tim, reacting to the performance. Future new-talent bits had Martin warily asking Rowan, "You're not gonna bring back Tiny Tim, are you?" Tiny Tim was really Herbert Khaury, a serious scholar of Tin Pan Alley tunes who hit upon this strangely humorous characterization. Thanks to appearances on the show, he recorded a falsetto version of the 1920s song "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" which became a top-40 hit. Tiny Tim was later married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to Victoria Budinger, who was known as Miss Vicki.

During the September 16, 1968, episode, Richard Nixon, running for president, appeared for a few seconds with a disbelieving vocal inflection, asking "Sock it to me?" Nixon was not doused or assaulted. An invitation was extended to Nixon's opponent, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, but he declined.[3] According to George Schlatter, the show's creator, "Humphrey later said that not doing it may have cost him the election", and "[Nixon] said the rest of his life that appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected. And I believe that. And I've had to live with that."[4]

Catchphrases[edit]

In addition to those already mentioned, the show created numerous catchphrases:

  • A six-note pattern preceding a code-word or punchline to an off-color joke, such as "do-doo-doo-da-do-doo ... smack!" or "... family jewels!" (sometimes extended to 16 notes by repeating the GGGDEC pattern two more times before the code-word). This same musical phrase had been used as a "signature" at the end of many pieces played by Spike Jones and his City Slickers and on the theme song for the children's series You Can't Do That on Television.
  • "I didn't know that." (Dick Martin's occasional response to what happened on an episode)
  • "Easy for you to say!' (Dan Rowan's reply whenever Dick Martin tripped on his tongue during a joke)
  • "Ohhh, I'll drink to that." (Martin's response to something Rowan said that he liked.)
  • "I was wondering if you'd mind if I said something my aunt once said to me." A phrase that Dick Martin would always say to interrupt Dan Rowan's announcements on what would happen during their next show; this phrase was followed by a story about a bizarre situation that his aunt went through.
  • "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls! (a lesser-known set of reference books whose phonetically funny name helped both Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to poke fun at NBC censors)
  • "Go to your room."
  • "Uncle Al had to take a lot of medicine last night" (line by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal, played by Alan Sues)
  • "You bet your sweet bippy!"
  • "Here come de judge!" (reprising comedian Pigmeat Markham and further popularized by guest stars Flip Wilson and especially Sammy Davis Jr.). Pontiac used the phrase for a high-performance version of its GTO muscle car, calling it "The Judge."
  • "Beautiful downtown Burbank" (various actors/characters, referring tongue-in-cheek to the Los Angeles suburb in which the NBC studios (and thus the program) were located; the same term was frequently used by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson).
  • "'Ello, 'ello! NBC, beautiful downtown Burbank" (the response to calls received by a switchboard operator played by Judy Carne). When the series was syndicated in 1983, the NBC logo and the network's name were edited out.
  • "And that's the truth." (Edith Ann, summarizing whatever she just said, and capping it with a juicy raspberry)
  • "One ringy-dingy...two ringy-dingies..." (Ernestine's mimicking of the rings while she was waiting for someone to pick up the receiver on the other end of the telephone lines)
  • "A gracious good afternoon. This is Miss Tomlin of the telephone company. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?" Ernestine's greeting to people whom she would call
  • "I just wanna swing!" Gladys Ormphby's catchphrase
  • "Is that a chicken joke?" Jo Anne Worley's outraged cry, a takeoff on Polish jokes
  • "Here comes the big finish, folk!" (usually before the last of a series of a star's bad puns)
  • "Sock it to me!" experienced its greatest exposure on Laugh-In although the phrase had been featured in songs like Aretha Franklin's 1967 "Respect" and Mitch Ryder's 1966 "Sock It To Me, Baby!"
  • "Oh, that Henny Youngman"
  • "Marshall McLuhan...what're you doin'?" (Henry Gibson)
  • "I don't know. I've never been out with one!" (First introduced by guest star Marcel Marceau, this catch-all punchline would be uttered by any guest star. Goldie: "Are you of the opposite sex?"
    Tiny Tim: "I don't know, Miss Goldie, I've never been out with one.")
  • "Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere."
  • "Now, that's a no-no!"
  • "Tune in next week when Henny Youngman's wife burns Jell-o!"
  • "If [so-and-so] married [what's-his-name], divorced him and married {etc.}" The purpose being to try to set up a tongue-twister, involving the last names of celebrities. Example: "If Rosemary Clooney married Regis Toomey, divorced him and married Mickey Rooney, divorced him and married Paul Muni, divorced him and re-married Regis Toomey, she'd be Rosemary Clooney Toomey Rooney Muni Toomey!" Sometimes, the punchline results would be take-offs of songs or plays or products: "If Kaye Ballard married former astronaut Wally Schirra, divorced him, married his brother, she'd be [singing "Que Sera, Sera"] Kaye Schirra Schirra."
  • "Morgul the Friendly Drelb" (a pink Abominable Snowman-like character that appeared in the first episode and bombed so badly that his name was used in various announcements by Gary Owens for the rest of the series (usually at the end of the opening cast list, right after Owens himself: "Yours truly, Gary Owens, and Morgul as the Friendly Drelb!") and credited as the author of a paperback collection of the show's sketches)
  • "That's the most beautiful thing I ever heard."
  • "Ring my chimes!"
  • "Want a Walnetto?", was a pick-up line Tyrone would try on Gladys, which always resulted in a purse drubbing.
  • "We have to stop meeting like this. My wife's getting suspicious." (or some other variant form of the phrase)

Merchandise tie-ins and spin-offs[edit]

A humor magazine tie-in, Laugh-In Magazine, was published for one year (12 issues: October 1968 through October 1969—no issue was published December 1968), and a syndicated newspaper comic strip was drawn by Roy Doty and eventually collected for a paperback reprint.

The Laugh-In trading cards from Topps had a variety of items, such as a card with a caricature of Jo Anne Worley with a large open mouth. With a die-cut hole, the card became interactive; a finger could be inserted through the hole to simulate Worley's tongue. Little doors opened on Joke Wall cards to display punchlines.

On Letters to Laugh-In, a short-lived spin-off daytime show hosted by Gary Owens, cast members read jokes sent in by viewers.

The comedy film The Maltese Bippy featured several actors from the series.

The General Motors Corporation produced a specially modified Pontiac GTO called "The Judge" to capitalize on the phrase's popularity. "The Judge" was available in 1969, 1970 and 1971.

In 1969, Sears, Roebuck and Company produced a 15-minute short, Freeze-In, which starred series regulars Judy Carne and Arte Johnson. Made to capitalize on the popularity of the series, the short was made for Sears salesmen to introduce the new Kenmore freezer campaign. A dancing, bikini-clad Carne provided the opening titles with tattoos on her body.[5]

Between 2003 and 2004, Rhino Entertainment released two Best Of releases of the show, each containing six episodes. Unlike other shows released back in those years, the DVDs are still in print.

Two LPs of material from the show were released: the first on Epic Records (FXS-15118, 1968); the second, entitled "Laugh-In '69," on Reprise Records (RS 6335, 1969).

Ratings[edit]

TV season, ranking, average viewers per episode

  • 1967–1968: #21 (21.3)[6]
  • 1968–1969: #1 (31.8)[7]
  • 1969–1970: #1 (26.3)[8]
  • 1970–1971: #13 (22.4)[9]
  • 1971–1972: #22 (21.4)[10]
  • 1972–1973: Not in the Top 30[11]

Revival[edit]

In 1977, Schlatter and NBC briefly revived the property as a series of specials – titled simply Laugh-In – with a new cast, including former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. The standout was a then-unknown Robin Williams, whose starring role on ABC's Mork & Mindy one year later prompted NBC to rerun the specials as a summer series in 1979. Also featured were Wayland and Madame as well as his other puppet, "Jiffy"; former Barney Miller actress, June Gable; and Good Times actor Ben Powers. Rowan and Martin, who owned part of the Laugh-In franchise, were not involved in this project. They sued Schlatter for using the format without their permission, and won a judgment of $4.6 million in 1980.

Awards and honors[edit]

Emmy Awards

  • Won:
    • 1971: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music, Mark Warren (episode #4.7)
    • 1970: Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Individuals, Goldie Hawn
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Arte Johnson
    • 1968: Outstanding Musical or Variety Program, George Shlatter (for the September 9, 1967 special)
    • 1968: Outstanding Musical or Variety Series, George Shlatter
    • 1968: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Music or Variety, Chris Bearde, Phil Hahn, Jack Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson, Paul Keyes, Marc London, Allan Manings, David Panich, Hugh Wedlock, Jr., Digby Wolfe
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Ruth Buzzi
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Goldie Hawn
  • Nominated:
    • 1972: Outstanding Achievement by a Performer in Music or Variety, Ruth Buzzi
    • 1972: Outstanding Achievement by a Performer in Music or Variety, Lily Tomlin

Golden Globe Award

  • Won:
    • 1973: Best Supporting Actress – Television, Ruth Buzzi
    • 1969: Best TV Show
  • Nominated:
    • 1972: Best Supporting Actress – Television, Lily Tomlin
    • 1971: Best Supporting Actor – Television, Henry Gibson
    • 1970: Best TV Show – Musical/Comedy
    • 1968: Best TV Show

International broadcasts[edit]

  • United Kingdom The series was broadcast on BBC2 from January 1969 to 1974. Some episodes from seasons 1, 2 and 3 were re-transmitted during late 1983 and early 1984.
  • Republic of Ireland The series was broadcast on RTÉ One
  • Australia The series aired on Nine Network
  • Canada CTV aired the series at the same time as the NBC run

References[edit]

  1. ^ TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows
  2. ^ The Comedy Writer That Helped Elect Richard M. Nixon
  3. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth. "Stooping To Conquer" The New Yorker, April 19, 2004.
  4. ^ "Satire and Parody; Sock it to Me?" Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, January 28, 2009.
  5. ^ "Internet Archive: Details: Freeze-In". Archive.org. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  6. ^ 1967 ratings.
  7. ^ 1968 ratings.
  8. ^ 1969 ratings.
  9. ^ 1970 ratings.
  10. ^ 1971 ratings.
  11. ^ 1972 ratings.

External links[edit]