Rowan & Martin's Laugh In

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Rowan & Martin's Laughin




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Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in 
America loved all 140 episodes of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, an American television show that ran from January 22, 1968 through May 14, 1973 on the NBC network. It replaced another popular show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the 8:00 p.m. times slot on Monday evenings. The title Laugh In came out of the 60's hippie culture, "be-ins" or "love-ins" (expressions derived from "sit-ins" which were common in protests associated with anti-war and civil rights demonstrations of the time).

Hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, the comedy team “from beautiful downtown Burbank” (Martin played the horny, dumb guy and Rowan played the exasperated straight man), the show was known for its rapid-fire series of gags and sketches; many of which contained sexual innuendo, were politically charged, or just plain silly.

A TV classic, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was one of those rare programs which was not only highly innovative, but an overnight sensation.  It created dozens or stars and was a trendsetter in comedy.  The wacky series provided a contemporary, unstructured, fast-paced comedy which was exactly what an agitated America wanted in 1968.

Laugh-In was first seen on September 9, 1967 as a one-time special. It was such an enormous hit that it eventually led to a series.

The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Vol. 2

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Its lightning-fast pace took full advantage of the technical capabilities of video tape and television. Sketches, one-liners, blackouts and cameo appearances by famous show-biz personalities and national politicians were all edited into a frenetic whole.

The regular cast was large and the turnover high. Of the forty regulars who appeared in the series only 4 were in it from beginning to end; the two hosts, announcers Ruth Buzzi and Gary Owens.

The show developed a loyal following eager for catchphrases such as "Verrrrry interestink . . .  but stupid", "Sock it to me", "Is that a chicken joke?" and "Here comes de judge".

The 'Sock it to me' girl was Judy Carne.  Other regulars included Ruth Buzzi as the little old lady carrying an umbrella, always whacking the equally decrepit old man who cuddled up beside her on a park bench; Arte Johnson as the German Soldier always peeking out from behind a potted palm; Alan Sues as the grinning idopt of a sports announcer; Lily Tomlin as the sarcastic, nasal telephone operator named Ernestine; Gary Owens as the outrageously over modulated announcer, facing the microphone, hand cupped over ear; Goldie Hawn, as the giggling dumb blonde and Lily Tomlin again as Edith Anne, a child philosopher whose catchphrase was "and that's the truth".


Rowan & Martin's Laughin

The dumb blonde image portrayed by Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In came about unintentionally. "When I first started, I was so nervous that I would look at the cue cards and get all mixed up" She says. The producer loved it. He said to "keep it that way".

Laugh InLaugh-In carried jokes about subjects like death, drugs, drugs and homosexuality;  extremely daring for 1968, and particularly daring for Americans. Nonetheless, the show attracted guest stars such as John Wayne and even presidential candidate Richard Nixon

During the 1968 election campaign, Nixon went on just to say "sock it to me". Hubert Humphrey, his opponent, was offered the same opportunity by the producers, but he declined. As it happens, Nixon won the election by only a million votes. Dick Martin jokingly confesses; "A lot of people have accused us". 

Devices of the program included the Cocktail Party, The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, Laugh-In Looks at the News and Letters to Laugh-In.  Gags were inscribed on the undulating body of a girl in a bikini, and also on the joke wall at the close of each show, in which cast members kept popping out of windows to throw each other one-liners - or a bucket of confetti or water.

Not another television variety show ensemble would leave such a firm imprint on the evolution of American comedy until until Saturday Night Live.

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