Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

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Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.png
Also known as Laugh-In
Genre Variety show
Created by
Directed by
  • Gordon Wiles
  • Mark Warren
Starring
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 140 (list of episodes)
Production
Running time 45–48 minutes
Production company(s) George Schlatter-Ed Friendly Productions in association with Romart Inc.
Distributor
Release
Original network NBC
Original release January 22, 1968 (1968-01-22) – March 12, 1973 (1973-03-12)
Chronology
Related shows

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. 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 (ET).

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

Laugh-In had its roots in the humor of vaudeville and burlesque, but its most direct influences were Olsen and Johnson's comedy (such as the 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.[2][page needed]

It featured, at various times, announcer Gary Owens, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Richard Pryor, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Teresa Graves, Larry Hovis, Chelsea Brown, Sarah Kennedy, Jeremy Lloyd, Dave Madden, Pigmeat Markham, Pamela Rodgers, Jud Strunk, Richard Dawson, Moosie Drier, Barbara Sharma, and Johnny Brown.

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). This was similar in format to the "Word Dance" segments of A Thurber Carnival. The show then proceeded through rapid-fire comedy bits, taped segments, and recurring sketches.

At the end of every show, 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 was 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 in for short "quickies" (one- or two-line jokes) interspersed throughout the show – as was done most famously by Richard Nixon, when running for president.

Cast[edit]

Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi in a 1968 Halloween skit
Rita Hayworth reprised her Sadie Thompson character on the show in 1971.
John Wayne being fitted for a giant bunny costume, 1972

Pilot and season 1[edit]

Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson, and Jo Anne Worley appeared in the pilot special from 1967. (Goldie Hawn joined for season 1 in 1968). Only the two hosts, announcer Gary Owens, and Buzzi, Carne, Gibson, and Johnson, were in all 14 episodes of season one. Eileen Brennan, Hovis, and Roddy Maude-Roxby left after the first season.

Seasons 2 and 3[edit]

The second season had a handful of new people, including Alan Sues, Dave Madden, and Chelsea Brown. All of the new cast members from season two left at the end of that season except Sues, who stayed on until 1972. At the end of the 1968–69 season, Carne chose not to renew her contract, although she did make appearances during 1969–1970.

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

Seasons 4 and 5[edit]

The 1970–71 season brought new additions to the cast include tall, lanky, 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 later appeared on Rhoda, and beefy Johnny Brown, who later played the superintendent Nathan "Buffalo Butt" Bookman on Good Times.

Arte Johnson, who created many memorable 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. Henry Gibson also departed after the 1970–71 season. Johnson and he were replaced by former Hogan's Heroes stars Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis, both of whom had appeared occasionally in the first season. However, the loss of Johnson's many popular characters caused ratings to drop further.

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 on hand for his first cameo appearance since 1968.

Season 6[edit]

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, Dennis Allen, and only occasional appearances from Tomlin, a new cast was brought in. This final season featured comedian Patti Deutsch, folksy singer-comedian Jud Strunk, ventriloquist act Willie Tyler & Lester, and giddy Goldie Hawn lookalike Sarah Kennedy. Former regular Jo Anne Worley returned for two guest appearances, including the final episode. 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 in 1987, although they were included when the program was rerun on the Decades over-the-air television channel in 2017.

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

Post Laugh-In[edit]

Tomlin, Hawn and Brennan 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 in which Gibson co-starred and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Hawn and Brennan co-starred in the hit 1980 film Private Benjamin. Gibson frequently appeared as a judge on the shows Boston Legal and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Ruth Buzzi became a regular on Sesame Street and starred in a Laugh-In-inspired Canadian show called Whatever Turns You On, which itself was the basis for 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 and had a recurring role on Alice as one of Flo's many suitors. 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 and later was a regular on the late 70s game show Liar's Club. Teresa Graves parlayed her season on the show into the title role of the police drama Get Christie Love! Arte Johnson hosted a short-lived game show called Knockout and with Buzzi, reprised their characters Gladys and Tyrone for the Saturday morning cartoon Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Alan Sues appeared as Peter Pan in a series of popular peanut butter ads. Jeremy Lloyd returned to England and co-created the hugely popular comedies Are You Being Served? and Allo Allo. Patti Deutsch (like Madden) did voiceovers for many TV and radio ads and also appeared frequently on Match Game as a panelist. Sharma recently appeared in a long-running State Farm ad as the grandmother of a woebegotten family stuck in the desert with a less-reliable company. Johnny Brown did ads for Paper-Mate's "Write Brothers" pens and had a recurring role as building super Nathan "Buffalo Butt" Bookman on Good Times. Strunk had a hit record with the song "Daisy a Day".

Cast tenures[edit]

  • All seasons: Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Gary Owens, and Ruth Buzzi
  • Season 1 (1968): Eileen Brennan, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Jo Anne Worley
  • Season 2 (1968–69): Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Jo Anne Worley, Alan Sues, Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall ("the Fun Couple"), Chelsea Brown, Dave Madden, Pigmeat Markham, Dick "Sweet Brother" Whittington, J.J. Berry[3], Byron Gilliam (uncredited)
  • Season 3 (1969–70): Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Jo Anne Worley, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Byron Gilliam, Teresa Graves, Jeremy Lloyd, Pamela Rodgers, Stu Gillies, Johnny Brown
  • Season 4 (1970–71): Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Johnny Brown, Dennis Allen, Ann Elder, Nancie Phillips, Barbara Sharma, Harvey Jason, Richard Dawson, Byron Gilliam (dancer only)
  • Season 5 (1971–72): Lily Tomlin, Larry Hovis, Alan Sues, Johnny Brown, Dennis Allen, Ann Elder, Barbara Sharma, Richard Dawson, Byron Gilliam (dancer only)
  • Season 6 (1972–73): Lily Tomlin, Dennis Allen, Richard Dawson, Moosie Drier, Tod Bass, Brian Bressler, Patti Deutsch, Lisa Farringer, Sarah Kennedy, Jud Strunk, Willie Tyler, Donna Jean Young
John Wayne and Tiny Tim helped Laugh-In celebrate its 100th episode in 1971.

Regular guest performers[edit]

Series writers[edit]

The writers for Laugh-In were: Digby Wolfe and Paul Keyes,[4] Allan Manings and Hugh Wedlock, Jr., Phil Hahn and Jack Hanrahan, Marc London and David Panich, Chris Bearde (credited as Chris Beard), Coslough Johnson (Arte Johnson's younger brother), Jim Mulligan and Jack Mendelsohn, Dave Cox, Jim Carlson, Lorne Michaels and Hart Pomerantz, John Carsey, Gene Farmer, John Rappaport and Stephen Spears, Jeremy Lloyd, Jack Douglas, Jim Abell and Chet Dowling, Barry Took, E. Jack Kaplan, Larry Siegel and Jack S. Margolis, Don Reo and Allan Katz, Jack Wohl and Richard Goren (also credited as Rowby Greeber and Rowby Goren), Gene Perret and Bill Richmond, and Bob Howard. Script supervisors for Laugh-In included Digby Wolfe (season 1), Phil Hahn and Jack Hanrahan (season 2), Allan Manings (season 3), Marc London and David Panich (seasons 3–6), and Jim Mulligan (season 6).

Musical direction and production numbers[edit]

The musical director for Laugh-In was Ian Bernard.[5] He wrote the opening theme music, plus the infamous "What's the news across the nation" number. He wrote all the musical "play-ons" that introduced comedy sketches like Lily 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, and often appeared on-camera, accompanying Johnson, Buzzi, Worley, or Sues, on a golden grand piano. Barnes was 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.[citation needed]

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.[6][page needed]

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 reinsert 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:

  • "Sock it to me"; Judy Carne was often tricked into saying the phrase, which almost invariably led to her being doused with water, falling through a trap door, or otherwise assaulted. ("It may be rice wine to you, but it's still sake to me!"). The phrase was also uttered by many of the guest stars on the show, though almost never subject to the same treatment as Carne.
  • "The Cocktail Party", in which the hosts, guests and regulars would be at a wild party. The orchestra would play a few bars of a dance song, only to stop while the cast and guests would exchange one-liners.
  • "The Joke-Wall", at the end of every show, the regulars along with the guests would poke out of doors inside a wall and exchange one-liners, similar to the Cocktail Party. Rowan & Martin often stood in front of the wall.
  • "Mod Mod World" comprised 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 clever wordplay. The dancers were usually Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, and Chelsea Brown; and occasionally Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley, as well as frequent guest Pamela Austin. Beginning in the 1969–1970 season, the dancing was handled briefly by new cast members Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers before being relegated to uncredited extras. On occasion, a cast member (superimposed on the screen) would cast off a one-liner while the dancing took place.
  • "The Farkel Family", a couple with many children — all of whom have flaming red hair and freckles like "good friend and trusty neighbor" Ferd Berfel (played by Dick Martin). Most plots were excuses to force the cast into alliterative tongue-twisters ("That's a fine-looking Farkel flinger you found there, Frank"). Two of the children were twins named Simon and Gar Farkel, played by cast members of different races (Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers in the third season and Johnny Brown and Barbara Sharma in the fourth season).
  • "The Judge", originally portrayed by British comic Roddy Maude-Roxby, was a stuffy magistrate with a black robe and powdered wig. Each "Judge" sketch featured an unfortunate defendant brought before the court. Guest star Flip Wilson (and later Sammy Davis, Jr.) would introduce the sketch with a rap that ended with "Here come da 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 on the bench for one season. The sketches were briefly retired until another guest star, Sammy Davis, Jr., donned the judicial robe and wig.
  • "Laugh-In Looks at the News", a parody of network newscasts, introduced by an unjournalistic song and dance chorus line including the female cast members, dressed in various costumes, and often with a guest star joining in. Apart from the production numbers, the sketch consisted of whimsically embellished news reports on current events and also included "News of the Past", and "News of the Future" segments, the latter of which on at least two occasions correctly predicted future events, one being that the Berlin Wall would finally come down in 1989, and another that Ronald Reagan would be president. The news segment was influenced by BBC's That Was the Week That Was, and in turn inspired Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segments; SNL creator Lorne Michaels was a Laugh-In writer early in his career.
  • "New Talent Time" introduced oddball variety acts, most notably of which was Tiny Tim. 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" (already a familiar catchphrase used by Dan Rowan when ushering "new talent" on stage), sarcastically saluted 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 a previous facility was destroyed in the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. The trophy is a gilded pointing hand mounted on a trophy base with its extended index finger adorned with two small wings.
  • "The Wonderful World of Whoopee Award" was created as a counterpart to the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award", and described by Rowan as a citation "for the little man who manages to outfight or outfox the bureaucracy"; the statue was similar to the Finger of Fate, only without wings and pointing straight up with a hidden mechanism that, when activated, caused the finger to wave in a circular motion.

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:
    • Wolfgang the German soldier – Wolfgang would often peer out from behind a potted palm and comment on the previous gag saying "Verrry interesting", sometimes with comments such as "... but shtupid!" He eventually closed 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 later repeated the line while playing Nazi-themed supervillain Virman Vundabar on an episode of Justice League Unlimited. Johnson also reprised his Wolfgang character for a series of small introductory skits with a plant on 3-2-1-Contact, during the "Growth/Decay" week.
    • Tyrone F. Horneigh (pronounced "hor-NIGH", presumably to satisfy the censors) was 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 later became animated characters (voiced by Johnson and Buzzi) in the "Nitwits" segments of the 1977 animated television show, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits.
    • Piotr Rosmenko, the Eastern European Man, 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 type of joke has come to be known as the Russian reversal.
    • Rabbi Shankar (a pun on Ravi Shankar) was an Indian guru who dresses in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudomystical Eastern wisdom laden with bad puns. He held up two fingers in a peace sign whenever he spoke.
    • An unnamed character in yellow raincoat and hat, riding a tricycle and then falling over, was frequently used between sketches.
  • Ruth Buzzi:
    • Gladys Ormphby – A drab, relatively young spinster, she 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 typically hit people repeatedly with her purse. The character was recreated, 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, she is paired with her husband, Leonard Swizzle, played by Dick Martin.
    • Busy Buzzi – A cold and heartless old-style Hedda Hopper-type Hollywood gossip columnist
  • Henry Gibson:
    • The Poet held an oversized flower and read offbeat poems. He pronounced his name "Henrik Ibsen".
    • The Parson – A character who makes ecclesiastical quips, in 1970, he officiated 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 (Lily Tomlin) entertains Rita Hayworth, 1971
  • Lily Tomlin:
    • Ernestine/Miss Tomlin – An obnoxious telephone operator, she has no concern for her customers. Tomlin later performed Ernestine on Saturday Night Live and Happy New Year, America. She also played the Ernestine character for a comedy album called This Is A Recording.
    • Edith Ann – A 5 12-year-old child, she ends each of her short monologues with: "And that's the truth", followed by "Pbbbt!". Tomlin performs her skits in an oversized rocking chair that makes her appear small. Tomlin later performed Edith Ann on children's shows such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company.
    • Mrs. Earbore (the "Tasteful Lady") – A prim society matron, Mrs. Earbore expressed quiet disapproval about a tasteless joke or remark, and then rose from her chair with her legs spread, and sometimes got doused with a bucket of water.
    • Dotty – A crass, and rude grocery checker who tended to annoy her customers at the store she worked at.
    • Lula – A loud and boisterous woman with a Marie Antoinette hair-do who always loved a party.
    • Suzie Sorority of the Silent Majority – clueless hippie college student who ended each bit with "Rah!"
    • Fast Talker – A steady stream of broken, incomprehensive, non-pause monologue by Tomlin
  • 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 are equally inept and 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 – She is usually played with by Arte Johnson, who never heeded her warning: "Touch my little body, and I hit you!"
    • The Sock-it-to-me girl in which she would end up being splashed with water and/or falling through a trap door.
  • 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!". At the cocktail parties, she would talk about her never-seen boyfriend/husband "Boris".
  • Alan Sues:
    • Big Al – A clueless and fey sports anchor, he loves ringing his "Featurette" bell, which he calls his "tinkle".
    • Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal – A short-tempered host of a children's show, he usually goes on the air with a hangover: "Oh, kiddies, Uncle Al had a lot of medicine last night." Whenever he got really agitated, he would yell to "Get Miss Twinkle on the phone!"
    • Boomer – A self-absorbed "jock" bragging about his athletic exploits
    • Ambiguously gay saloon patron – while the tough guys ordered whiskey, he would saunter up to the bar and say "I'll have a frozen daquiri!"
  • Dave Madden as a milk-drinking, confetti-throwing sad sack
  • Barbara Sharma as the tap dancing meter-maid who tickets anything from trees to baby carriages. She often praises Vice President Spiro Agnew.
  • Richard Dawson appears as Hawkins the Butler, who always started his piece by asking "Permission to ...?" and proceeded to fall over.
  • Flip Wilson would appear as his character "Geraldine", originating the catchphrases "What you see is what you get" and "The devil made me do it".

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.

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.[7] 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."[8] In an episode of the ill-fated 1977 revival, a Nixon impersonator says "I invited the American people to sock-it-to-me.... you can stop now".[citation needed]

On multiple occasions, producer George Schlatter attempted to get William F. Buckley Jr. to appear on the show, only to be refused each time until he suddenly agreed to an appearance. In the episode that aired December 28, 1970, Buckley appeared in an unusual sit-down segment (portions of which were scattered throughout the episode) flanked by Rowan and Martin and fielding questions from the cast (which included Lily Tomlin doing her Fast Talker shtick) and giving humorous answers to each. Near the end, when Rowan asked Buckley why he finally agreed to appear on the show, Buckley explained that Schlatter had written him "an irresistable letter" in which he promised to fly Buckley out to California "in an airplane with two right wings". At the end, Rowan thanked him for appearing, noting that "you can't be that smart without having a sense of humor, and you have a delightful one".

Catchphrases[edit]

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

  • "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)
  • "You bet your sweet bippy!"
  • "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).
  • "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
  • "Sock it to me!" experienced its greatest exposure on Laugh-In although the phrase had been featured in songs such as Aretha Franklin's 1967 "Respect" and Mitch Ryder's 1966 "Sock It To Me, Baby!"
  • "Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere."
  • "Now, that's a no-no!"
  • "Morgul the Friendly Drelb" – a pink Abominable Snowman-like character that appeared in the first episode and bombed so badly, 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.
  • "Want a Walnetto?" was a pick-up line Tyrone would try on Gladys, which always resulted in a purse drubbing.
  • "Here come da Judge"
  • "Verrry Interesting"
  • "And that's the truth – PFFFFT!"
  • "He pushed me!" – usually said by Sues when another cast member would bump him
  • "He was a much better person for that" – as "Sock it to me!" was phased out following Carne's departure, this became the line used for similar sketches
  • "Well, I'll drink to that", "I did not know that!", and "That's funny, so did she" – Martin

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, which were scored by applause meter. The eventual winning joke was read by actress Jill St. John: "What do you get when you cross an elephant with a jar of peanut butter? A 500 pound sandwich that sticks to the roof of your mouth!"

A cross-promotional episode of I Dream of Jeannie ("The Biggest Star in Hollywood", February 1969) features Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Gary Owens, and producer George Schlatter playing themselves in a story about Jeannie being sought after to appear on Laugh-In.

In 1969, a Laugh-In View-Master packet was issued by General Aniline and Film (GAF); The packet featured 21 3D images from the show.[9]

The horror spoof film The Maltese Bippy (1969) starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin was loosely related to the series. Pamela Rodgers was the only Laugh-In cast member to co-star in the film.

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.[10]

Between 2003 and 2004, Rhino Entertainment's "Retrovision" released two The Best Of releases of the show, each containing six episodes presented in digitally remastered, complete and uncut, original broadcast version.

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).

DVD releases[edit]

On June 19, 2017, Time Life released Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time, in a deal with Proven Entertainment.[11] The 38-disc set contains all 140 episodes of the series, complete, unedited and uncut, digitally restored and fully remastered from the original broadcast masters as well as many bonus features and a special 32-page collector's book.

On September 5, 2017, Time Life will release the complete first season on DVD.[12]

Ratings[edit]

TV season, ranking, average viewers per episode

  • 1967–1968: #21 (21.3)[13]
  • 1968–1969: #1 (31.8)[14]
  • 1969–1970: #1 (26.3)[15]
  • 1970–1971: #13 (22.4)[16]
  • 1971–1972: #22 (21.4)[17]
  • 1972–1973: Not in the Top 30[18]

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:
    • 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
    • 1968: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Electronic Production – Arthur Schneider (tape editor)
    • 1969: Outstanding Musical or Variety Series – Paul Keyes (producer), Carolyn Raskin (producer), Dick Martin (star), Dan Rowan (star)
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Arte Johnson
    • 1971: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music, Mark Warren (episode #4.7 with Orson Welles)
  • Nominated:
    • 1968: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music, Bill Foster (pilot episode)
    • 1968 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music, Gordon Wiles
    • 1968: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Music or Variety, – Larry Hovis, Paul Keyes, Jim Mulligan, David Panich, George Shlatter, Digby Wolfe (pilot episode)
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Ruth Buzzi
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances), Goldie Hawn
    • 1969: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy, Variety or Music – Gordon Wiles (For episode on 3 February 1969)
    • 1969: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy, Variety or Music – various writers (For episode on 3 February 1969)
    • 1969: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music – Billy Barnes (special material)
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances) – Ruth Buzzi
    • 1969: Special Classification Achievements – Individuals (Variety Performances) – Goldie Hawn
    • 1969: Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Scenic Design – Ken Johnson
    • 1969: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Electronic Production – John Teele and Bruce Verran (video tape editors)
    • 1969: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Electronic Production – Arthur Schneider (tape editor)
    • 1970: Outstanding Variety or Musical Series – George Schlatter (executive producer), Carolyn Raskin (producer), Paul Keyes (producer), Dan Rowan (star), Dick Martin (star)
    • 1970: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy, Variety or Music – various writers (For episode on 3 November 1969 with Buddy Hackett)
    • 1970: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy, Variety or Music – various writers (For episode on 20 December 1969 with Nancy Sinatra)
    • 1970: Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Individuals, Goldie Hawn
    • 1970: Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Individuals, Arte Johnson
    • 1970: Outstanding Achievement in Music, Lyrics and Special Material – Billy Barnes (composer) (For episode with Carol Channing)
    • 1970: Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design – Michael Travis
    • 1971: Outstanding Variety Series, Musical – George Schlatter (executive producer), Carolyn Raskin (producer), Paul Keyes (producer), Dan Rowan (star), Dick Martin (star)
    • 1971: Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Individuals – Arte Johnson
    • 1971: Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement – Individuals – Lily Tomlin
    • 1971: Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction and Electronic Camerawork – Marvin Ault (cameraman), Ray Figelski (cameraman), Louis Fusari (technical director), Jon Olson (cameraman), Tony Yarlett (cameraman)
    • 1972: Outstanding Achievement by a Performer in Music or Variety, Ruth Buzzi
    • 1972: Outstanding Achievement by a Performer in Music or Variety, Lily Tomlin
    • 1972: Outstanding Achievement in Music, Lyrics and Special Material – Billy Barnes (For episode with Liza Minnelli)
    • 1973: Outstanding Achievement by a Supporting Performer in Music or Variety – Lily Tomlin
    • 1978: Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music, Bea Arthur (for episode on 25 October 1977)
    • 1978: Outstanding Achievement in Video Tape Editing for a Series – Ed. J. Brennan (editor) (For show #6–8 February 1978)

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 and U.S. re-broadcasts[edit]

  • United Kingdom The series was broadcast on BBC2 from January 1969 to 1974. Some episodes from seasons 1, 2 and 3 were retransmitted during late 1983 and early 1984. Early broadcasts had to be shown with a black border, as technology was not available to render the 525-line NTSC video recording as a full-screen 625-line PAL picture. This issue was fixed for later broadcasts.
  • 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.

1983 saw the first 70 one-hour shows syndicated to broadcast stations (the pilot, first three seasons and the first four episodes of season 4). Alternate recut half-hour shows were syndicated through Lorimar Productions to local stations in 1983 and later on Nick at Nite in 1987 through August 1990.

The cable network Trio started airing the show in its original one-hour form in the early 2000s; the same abbreviated 70 episode package was run.

In September 2016, digital sub-network Decades started airing the show twice a day in its original one-hour format, complete with the NBC Peacock opening and 'snake' closing. The entire 6 season run was supplied by Proven Entertainment.

Two "Best-of" DVD packages are also available; they contain six episodes each.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows". CBS News. April 26, 2002. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  2. ^ Hal Erickson, From Beautiful Downtown Burbank / A Critical History of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, 1968-1973 North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2000 ISBN 0786407662
  3. ^ "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. 
  4. ^ "The Comedy Writer That Helped Elect Richard M. Nixon by Kliph Nesteroff". WFMU's Beware of the Blog. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Ian Bernard (III) profile". Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved 20 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Art Schneider, Jump Cut: Memories of a Pioneer Television Editor, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1997 ISBN 0786403454
  7. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (April 19, 2004). "Stooping To Conquer". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on October 5, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Satire and Parody; Sock it to Me?" Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, January 28, 2009.
  9. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series: 1969: July-December. Copyright Office, Library of Congress. 1972. Retrieved December 31, 2016 – via Google books. 
  10. ^ "Internet Archive: Details: Freeze-In". Archive.org. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  11. ^ 'The Complete Series' 38-DVD Set is Now Up for Pre-Order
  12. ^ Time Life Brings 'The Complete 1st Season' DVDs to Stores
  13. ^ 1967 ratings.
  14. ^ 1968 ratings.
  15. ^ 1969 ratings.
  16. ^ 1970 ratings.
  17. ^ 1971 ratings.
  18. ^ 1972 ratings.

External links[edit]