Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967–1973)
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This pre-dates most of the SNL and In Living Color style shows that dominated TV in the 70's, 80's & 90's.
Rowan and Martin made an excellent team. Rowan's straight delivery with a hint of exasperation mixed greatly with Martin's sarcastic, deadpan quips.
My personal favorite was Arte Johnson. Anything he did made me laugh like a banshee. And Henry Gibson's poetry was a close second. But there were no duds at all in this show.
Guest watching also made this a fun trip. The psychedelic decor dates it a little, but it doesn't hurt. A lot of the humor seemed off the cuff.
And when Goldie Hawn picked up her Oscar while on the show, the whole cast kept dropping asides about it during that week's filming. They all made several comments about it.
I saw this during it's brief Nickelodeon run in the late 80's. Bring it back.
Headed by longtime comedy partners Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, "Laugh-In" was an hour-long barage of madcap tomfoolery. Short sketches, one-shot gags, "Quickies," as they were called, and guest appearances by everyone from Sammy Davis, Jr., to Johnny Carson to soon-to-be President Richard M. Nixon. It was the springboard for the careers of such stars as Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson and Ruth Buzzi.
If you have a taste for the weird and the wacky, with an undertone of political commentary (the remarkable thing was how they always presented both sides of any issue they were mocking) or just want to see classics like "The Cocktail Party" or "The Joke Wall," do yourself a favor and check out "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" for hilariosin-entartaina-wonderfulations! (Boy! Look THAT up in your Funk and Wagnall's!)
"Laugh-In",premiered its first telecast on NBC on January 22,1968 and from the first episode was an immediate hit. The show would run for five seasons on the network ending its astounding run and it final association with NBC on May 14,1973. An astounding 124 episodes was produced for this series under it's creator Digby Wolfe and executive producer of the series George Schlatter along with associate executive producer Ed Friendly and producer Carolyn Raskin. During the first three seasons of the show,"Laugh-In" went straight to the top of the TV ratings,and from there it was the number-one program on the air during 1968-1971 seasons. From that success,the show garnered two Golden Globes and three Emmys for outstanding performances and achievements as well. Between it's last two seasons(1971-1973)the ratings began to drop due to the fact that George Schlatter left the series for other things and others who were behind the success of the show as well as well as some of the best talent as well which finally ended its run in the spring of 1973.
This was series that was innovative for its time and would become the forerunner of other great shows to follow it. The reason? The lightning fast-paced took full advantage of the technical capabilities of television and videotape. Blackouts,sketches,one-liners,and cameo appearances by famous show-business celebrities and even national politicians were edited into a frenetic whole. The regular cast was large and the turnover high,and the 40 regulars who appeared in the series only four were with it from the beginning to the end--the two hosts(Dan Rowan and Dick Martin),announcer(Gary Owens),and cast regular Ruth Buzzi. This show was a springboard for some of the greatest cast regular who would go on to bigger and better things after their stint on "Laugh-In". Stars like Goldie Hawn,Artie Johnson,Henry Gibson,Ruth Buzzi,along with Joanne Worley,Judy Carne,Larry Hovis,Teresa Graves, Alan Sues,Dave Madden,Richard Dawson,Lily Tomlin,and even Willie Tyler and Lester were some of the stars who made their mark on this show just to name a few and so much more. The essence of "Laugh-In" was basically shtick,a comic routine or trademark repeated over and over until it was closely associated with a performer. People love it come to expect it,and it was the talk around the water cooler the next morning after the show.All of the great comedians had at least one,but what was remarkable about "Laugh-In" was that it developed a whole repertoire of sight gags and catchphrases that became famous and to this day they are still being used which are considered these days..comedy classics. Phrases like "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls","Very Interesting","You Bet Your Sweet Bibby","Sock It To Me?",not to mention "Beautiful Downtown Burbank",and "Here Comes The Judge!" are nowadays considered useful in terms,but in all aspects this is what made that show brilliant in every aspect and detail. Some of the devices of the show were the fast-paced Cocktail Party,Letters To Laugh-In, The Flying Fickle Finger Of Fate,It's A Mod-Mod World,Laugh-In Looks At The News(of the past,present and future),Hollywood News With Ruth Buzzi,the gags written on the undulating body of a girl in a bikini (which consists of either Goldie Hawn,Judy Carne,Joanne Worley,or Teresa Graves-in a bikini),and not to mention the joke wall at the end of each show.
Among the favorites:Artie Johnson as the German soldier; Ruth Buzzi as the little old lady with an umbrella,forever whacking the equally decrepit old man who get close to her sitting on a park bench; Lily Tomlin as the saracastic,nasal telephone operator; Gary Owens as the outrageously overmodeled announcer; Alan Sues as the grinning moron of a sports announcer; Goldie Hawn as the giggling dumb blonde not to mention Teresa Graves as the soulful go-go mod dancer. The pace was funny but it never let up and it kept going until the end.
For those who watched regularly the catch phrases were priceless and introduced them into our mainstream lexicon. Sayings such as "sock it to me" were not only uttered by business execs, secretary's, hosuewives, and everyday working people wishing to emulate the awakening of social moree's but also spoken freely by media and political types wishing to be thought of as in touch with the younger hip generation.
Laugh-In spared no one in it's sarcasm and very often stepped dangerously close to the edge with network execs. Once the show caught fire with TV viewers it became sheik for actors, actresses, and politicians to lobby for a position on next week's show.
Unlike SNL Laugh-In could not sustain and reinvent itself and by 1973 the nations TV watchers were ready to move on. Most of the regulars on the show fell into guest shots on other shows and eventually drifted out of site of the public. A couple of the alumni went on to great success in movies and tv. Goldie Hawn was a "graduate" of the show and went on to win an Academy Award for Cactus Flower in 1969 and has become a certifiable star in Hollywood. Lily Tomlin, and who can forget her priceless portrayal of Ernestine the telephone operator at the switchboard, went on to become one of America's most beloved and cherished comedic performers who also showed her acting agility in dramatic roles as well.
All in all Laugh-In is a part of television history and deserves its place as a cherished memory and deserving of re-run time on TV Land.
Recently, this iconic comedy series began a run on the Decades channel.
Occasionally, such as during the early part of the third season, I noticed an occasional flat episode or two. Otherwise, most of the humor and wit were sharp and/or amusing for almost all of the episodes of the first three seasons. The second half of season three was a special treat, with both Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin in attendance,the latter just beginning her time on the show. I was wondering why this show had not been so fondly remembered by yours truly. I opined that some of the humor might have been over my head. Well, that may have been the case for those early years...
When season four began, I noted not only the cast changes, but more importantly the weakness of the wit on presentation. Gone were Goldie Hawn, Jeremy Lloyd, Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers as performers (Judy Carne had also slowly phased herself out during the third season), but most notably, a number of writers had departed after the third season. Apparently their contributions did make a difference, as the laugh-out-loud moments became rare from that fourth season on. As there were some rough episodes even with those authors on board before, the situation seemed to become somewhat dire afterwards. Perhaps this is why we don't recall Laugh-In as the great comedy innovation it was at its outset.
For those incipient years, we had sly political commentary, reminiscent of the previous Tom Lehrer/That Was the Week that Was era, occasionally poking its way in through Rowan & Martin's dialogues; i.e. jibes at the NSA, the AMA, hopelessness of widespread implementation of alternative auto fuels, etc., through the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate and Whoopee award spots, as well as Rowan's military general character. In short, issues still on the table today were approached, which made the show seem less than fatuous. The humor often combined old jokes with new issues in a seamless fashion that made things funny, even if we knew the jokes were old. It was old but also cool, just as older guests and the younger cast seemed to blend well.
For the fourth season, all that seemed to fly the window. Instead, we had more obviously lame jokes and what felt like tired humor. Instead of crisp barbs we had Barbi Benton and such. There seemed to be more of a spirit of Tuning-Out and Turning-On on display than the more pertinent critiques blended with "flower power" humor that seemed to work in years previous. In short, whereas they had previously, finally made the social commentary of Lehrer and the like palatable to the general public, after years of aborted attempts that had been too caustic, now that area of the scripts was more-or-less scrapped. After season 4, Artie Johnson and Henry Gibson also left. One can see why. If the show had been what it once was, perhaps they would have remained. Some execs obviously told Rowan & Martin and co. to tone down on certain aspects and to fluff things up. This seemed to disembowel the show of its core, the reminders of the motives behind the protest movements, and leave it with the hollow shell of the lifestyle that remained. That resultant, shallow after-taste is what also seemed to happen with Benny Hill, the Carry On films and others, i.e. milking the product whilst also reducing to the LCD level of sophistication.
Laugh-In, we remember your early years, lest ye be judged on the later. It was the perfect recipe which was then tinkered with.
I took to it immediately as a kid, in part because I was already hip to certain things (such as how SQUARE CBS was!), and how the show poked fun at so many things. Season One had a special raw quality, though seasons two and three were fun to watch as well.
Sadly, despite such GREAT talent as Johnny Brown and Lily Tomlin, the show started to run on tired blood when Season Four began. Maybe it was the very onset of the 1970s, because so much changed. The series began to look a little dated in Season Five because of the onslaught of such programs as "All In The Family," and by then, the ratings began to sag. And then it was all over by 1973.
No matter. When it was good, it was and IS fantastic! And it brought plenty of amusement to my life. It was also very innovative in other ways, such as having the Banana Splits (a children's show) appear on the show in 1968. Imagine, having children's and adults' programming come together like that. It was never done before.
And I am thankful for this.
The show was so refreshing when compared to usual late 1960s fare that it was an instant smash hit that lasted six seasons. While it seems curiously dated now--the subject matter is so mild today--it was cutting-edge, daring, and uproarious 47 years ago. While the show finally faded away in 1973, it's a reminder of a time in the country's history when everyone was ready for something new, different, and very funny. "Laugh-In" provided something completely new, offbeat and screamingly funny all those long years ago.
MANY FOLKS REMEMBER the team only from R & M's LAUGH-IN; which represented the pinnacle of their careers. Its quick editing, non sequitor sketches, real in hip talk, music, dancing girls and catch phrase of "Sock it to me!", all added up to what was the most influential TV comedy of its day (and arguably, any day).
THE SHOW WAS encrusted with many future show biz gems; many of whom were destined for much bigger things, Stardom even! Consider the following roster: Ruth Buzzi, Gary Owens (Announcer), Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Richard Dawson, Joanne Worley, Goldie Hawn, Johnny Brown, Dave Madden, Judy Carne, Larry Hovis, Chelsea Brown, Willie Tyler and many others.
IN ADDITION TO this great rep-oratory company, LAUGH IN's popularity made it a highly sought after gig or guest appearances. Their list of luminaries making spot appearances include: Peter Lawford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, Flip Wilson, Henny Youngman, Greer Garson (!!), Marcel Marceau and many others. LAUGH IN was responsible for Tiny Tim's sudden popularity. Even Richard Nixon made a cameo with his famous recital of "Sock it to ME?"
DURING IT SEVEN year run, LAUGH IN always garnered a Lion's share of the ratings; which pleased its network, NBC, very much. It was the one show that inspired the most 'around the old water cooler' conversation.
ROWAN & MARTIN"S LAUGH IN made about as big a splash on the entertainment as any other show. Only THE SMUTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR compared to its phenomenon. But, LAUGH IN did it without making the waves of controversy. .
To me - The major trouble with "Laugh-In" (which was neither hip nor cool) was that it was geared to please (and produce chuckles from) the most conservative and mealy-mouthed squares imaginable. This show didn't come anywhere near to offering its audience groundbreaking humour, at all. No. It didn't.
"Laugh-In" was a "roll-your-eyes-to-the-ceiling-and-groan"-type of comedy program where its stale jokes were repeatedly delivered with total smugness from the unfunny members of its second-rate cast.
Not only were women frequently depicted as being flaky bimbos on "Laugh-In" - But I lost track of how many times it became plainly obvious that the actors were, indeed, reading their lines straight from cue-cards that were placed before them just out of camera-range.
The only thing that makes any sense to me as to why so many people are giving "Laugh-In" such high ratings all boils down to them choosing to view this decidedly dimwitted show through the murky haze of rose-coloured glasses.
What made the show so great was the lively supporting cast associated with it.
The sketches with Arte Johnson as the old man starting up with Ruth Buzzi on the park bench were constantly hilarious. Who had the idea to put that net on Buzzi's hair? It made her look so appropriately ugly. When she swung that pocketbook, we roared with laughter.
Then we had Judy Carne saying "Sock it to Me!" Remember when Richard Nixon said that famous line briefly on the show?
Dick Martin gave us that dead pan like humor and Dan Rowan portrayed the typical slick but constant smoking guy on the show.
Joanne Worley was loud but so well suited for this continuous mayhem.
I can't imagine how announcer Gary Owen was able to restrain himself from laughing.
This show and "That Was the Week That Was" gave new dimension to television.
Featured players Judy Carne (talented, awesome legs and fantastic timing, great dancer, love the robot couple of her and Arte Johnson). Goldie Hawn ( great act as a ditz but way more behind that cute chickadee facade...unsuccessfully replaced after her departure). Arte Johnson (TOTAL TALENT). Ruth Buzzy (always funny, born with a perfect face for comedy). Flip Wilson (appeared frequently in season 1 & 2 almost a cast member but clearly an awesome talent who went on to fabulous success with his own show). Alan Sues (the Paul Lynde of Laugh-in and just funny every time. Henry Gibson (subtle humor and fabulous talent). These people were the core group that made this show fly and as they left, so went the really funny parts of the show. I'd take Judy's cute sexy switchboard operator over Tomlin's boring, antiquated bit anytime.
It seems like the show just got really mainstream and safe after 1970, maybe even a little before that and the loss of these great performers clearly show the poor effort at trying to replace them. But the first few seasons are gold.
This show was funny when i first saw it live, and has aged well with me.
Laugh-In was quite a novelty when it first aired, presenting audiences with a fast-paced, unstructured variety show featuring lots of sight gags, punch lines, and other wacky stuff, all pieced together into a frenetic mesh of comedy. This format has, of course, been done many times (Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, and even The Muppet Show and Sesame Street) but Laugh-In was definitely a forerunner.
The hosts, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, were as great a pair as Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello, and the show featured many unknown comedians who have since become famous, such as Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, and Arte Johnson.
Although parts of the show have a definite 60's/70's taste to them, the humor remains timeless for those who enjoy wacky, off-the-wall comedy.
All in all, it is verrrry interesting! And verrrry funny!