Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In is one of T.V.'s classics. It brought together some of the finest people in comedic talent. It was original, witty, strange, funny and kept the audience asking for more.
Laugh-In began as a special on September 9, 1967 and was so popular that it became a series that premiered on January 22, 1968. It was an overnight sensation, and immediately went to the top of the ratings. It was on Monday nights opposite of The Lucy Show and Gunsmoke. However it proved itself by reaching the number one spot in it's first two seasons. With site gags, trap doors and popular catchprases, it became the "water cooler" show of the sixties.
Laugh-In was a commercial success as well. Lunch boxes, magazines, sock it to me T-shirts, jigsaw puzzles, neckties, raincoats, coasters, inflatable gavels, chewing gum, school supplies, beachwear and sleeping bags were just a few things that surfaced. Judy Carne was measured for a possible doll stemming from her talking Judy doll routine. A chain of Laugh-In restaurants were serving "bippy burgers" and proclaiming "Here Come The Fudge."
The show had it's own live in sensors. The producers were called on several things during the run, including a line that Judy Carne read after loosing her hair saying "Well I've never been bald (balled) before." Another routine involved Judy and Henry Gibson. As Judy walked by him saying "Hi," and Henry replying "You too?" Running site gags included girls in bikinis with sayings painted on them dancing during the "Mod, Mod World" segment and CFG Automat and CFG Carwash (CFG stood for "Crazy Fucking George" for the crazy ideas producer George Schlatter would come up with.)
Many guest stars were featured over the years as well. Two of the most frequently seen were Flip Wilson and Sammy Davis Jr. In 1968, the producers asked then Vice President Hubert Humphrey to come on, but he refused. They also asked Mr. Humphrey's opponent Richard Nixon to appear as well. Mr. Nixon did appear and asked "Sock It To Me?" Many believe that this helped him to win the presidency.
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin had been a comedy team for years, when they were approached about the special. George Schlatter and Ed Friendly headed the production team and interviewed the many talented future stars.
Many new characters were created from the show. Arte Johnson had characters such as Mr. Rosemenko the Russian pop singer from behind the Iron Curtain, the Rabbi Shanker, the Indian Mystic, Wolfgang the German soldier (who purred the term "Verry Interesting from behind a fox hole), the husband in Robot Theater (with Judy Carne), and Tyrone F. Hornigh, the dirty old man constantly cuddling up to Ruth Buzzi's Gladys Ormphby and getting hit by her purse.
Besides Ruth Buzzi's Gladys, she also was the meddling mother-in-law, the "busy body Buzzi" Hollywood reporter, who usually reported on Steve McQueen. She also portrayed a drunk, a role that she played very convincingly with Dick Martin.
Dick Martin's characters were few, but he did present the current news. He termed the phrase "You bet your bippy" and constantly reminded Dan Rowan about the seemingly constant flow of women at his house.
Dan Rowan always had a cigarette or pipe in his mouth. His most memorable character was probably General Bull Right, the hard talking general who believed constant war was the only way to go. He also presented the future news. He and Dick Martin were the main instigators in the "Sock It To Me's" that Judy Carne would receive.
Judy Carne played the most characters second to Arte Johnson. She played the wife in the Robot Theater, the talking Judy doll, the "campus girl on the go" who seemed more interested in the "highs" of college rather than education, the operator for NBC. Her most recognized role is the "Sock It To Me" girl.
Goldie Hawn would play the "dumb blonde," constantly messing up Dan Rowan's introduction for the future news. After her run on Laugh-In was over, she became one of the most (if not the most) famous member of the entire cast.
Jo Anne Worley didn't need a character, her voice and phrases said it all. "Is that another chicken joke?" and her dimply smile were enough. She constantly chased the men on the set and reminded them how sexy they all were. She had an infectious laugh that would bring down the house.
Alan Sues is probably best remembered for his "Uncle Al The Kiddies Pal" character and his sports reports where he would exclaim "Oooo how I love my tinkle!"
Henry Gibson played the quiet poet who's outrageous senseless poems kept audiences laughing. He also played the wisecracking Parson who would remind everyone not to change what the bible says.
Lily Tomlin brought several characters to Laugh-In when she began in 1970. She brought Edith Ann, the smart-alecky little girl, who told us what she thought grown ups really did and always ended her sayings with "and that's the truth". She also did Miss Earbore, the precise, "miss manners" snooty lady who wouldn't close her legs upon standing. Susie Sorority was a soft-spoken wise college girl. Her most famous character was Ernestine, the nasal, rude telephone operator who constantly talked double talk. Like Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin also became very famous after her run on Laugh-In.
Gary Owens was the announcer for the show. He constantly had his hand up to his ear. He usually ended the show with "This show was prerecorded...." and he'd slip in various reasons. After he's sign off, a single pair of hands were heard clapping to signify the end of the show. He had an afternoon show entitled Letters To Laugh-In.
Many other stars came and went over the years, but the most dramatic change came at the end of the 1969- 1970 season, when three of the mainstays of the show left. Goldie Hawn left for her movie career and Jo Anne Worley and Judy Carne left to pursue other acting ventures. Henry Gibson and Arte Johnson left a season later and Alan Sues left in 1972. Ruth Buzzi and the two hosts were the only cast members to appear in every episode including the special. Gary Owens appeared in every episode except the special.
Laugh-In was nominated and won several awards over it's run as well. In 1968, 1969, and 1970 it was nominated for Golden Globes for best T.V. show. It won in 1969. Three more Golden Globe nominations came in 1971, 1972 and 1973 for individual performances.Henry Gibson in 1971, Lily Tomlin in 1972 and Ruth Buzzi won in 1973. The Emmy awards were kind as well. In 1968 it was the winner of "Outstanding Musical or Variety Series" "Outstanding Musical or Variety Program" (for the special) and "Outstanding Writing Achievement in Musical or Variety." In 1969 the luck continued. It again won for "Outstanding Musical or Variety Series" and "Outstanding Individual Achievement (Special Classification)" for Arte Johnson's performance.In 1971 it won for"Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety or Music (Special)" for an episode featuring Orson Welles. In addition Ruth Buzzi and Goldie Hawn were nominated in 1969, Goldie was again nominated in 1970 and Ruth and Lily Tomlin were nominated in 1972.
Ratings began to drop and with the best of the cast slowly dropping off the show ended in 1973 leaving the world a different place. There have been 3 Laugh-In specials since the show's end. In 1993 there was a 25th Anniversary show. Several stars showed up for this. There were also a Christmas Special and a Valentines Day special. Both of these aired in 1994.
by S. Pennington- webmistress
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