Rowan & Martin's Laugh In

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in

Laugh-In

Laugh-In

Unforgettable Cast Members, Guests
and some of their Running Jokes

* Arte Johnson portrayed a number of recurring characters, including:

Rabbi Shankar, an Indian guru (a pun on Ravi Shankar) dressed in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudo-mystical Eastern wisdom riddled with terrible puns.
Wolfgang, the Nazi soldier, often remarking on on the previous gag with "Verrry interesting", sometimes with additional remarks such as "...but schtupit!" He would end each show by talking to Lucille Ball and the cast of Gunsmoke both airing opposite Laugh-In on CBS; as well as whatever was airing on ABC.
Rosmenko, the Eastern-European Man, who stood stiffly and nervously in an ill-fitting suit while commenting on differences between "The Old Country" and America, 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.
Tyrone F. Horneigh, the dirty old man flirting with Gladys Ormphby while seated on a park bench, who always eventually struck him with her purse. Both the Horneigh and Ormphby characters returned in the "Nitwits" segments of the 1977 animated television show "Baggy Pants and the Nitwits".
A man in a yellow raincoat riding a tricycle, falling over and crashing.

* Los Angeles disc jockey Gary Owens standing giving announcements with his hand cupped over his ear, often with little relation to the rest of the show.

* Ruth Buzzi in many roles, including:

Mrs. Swizzle, a seedy barfly (paired with her husband, Mr. Swizzle, played by Dick Martin, and used frequently in the first season).
Gladys Ormphby, a drab though relatively young spinster who was forever the target of Johnson's Tyrone; when Arte Johnson left the series, Gladys retreated into recurring daydreams, often involving marriages to historical figures, including Benjamin Franklin and Christopher Columbus (both played by Alan Sues).
Busy Buzzi, a Louella Parsons/Hedda Hopper style gossip columnist.

* Henry Gibson

"The Poet", reading offbeat poems and holding a flower, he pronounced his name, Henrik Ibsen)

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in

"The Parson" (who offered ecclesiastical quips and, in 1970, officiated at a near-marriage for Tyrone and Gladys).

* Henny Youngman telling one-liners for no apparent reason. (Usually, any corny one-liner jokes would be followed by the line, "Oh, that Henny Youngman!")

* Lily Tomlin as a child named "Edith Ann" ("And that's the truth. Pbbbt!"), and the obnoxious telephone operator "Ernestine" ("'Fair'? Sir, we don't have to be fair. We're the phone company."), as and as "tasteful" society matron Mrs. Earbore. (Tomlin also famously performed Ernestine for Saturday Night Live, and Edith Ann on children's shows such as The Electric Company.)

* Alan Sues as "Big Al", a fey and clueless sports anchor who loved ringing his bell, which he called his "tinkle", and as hung-over children's show host "Uncle Al the Kiddie's Pal"

* Goldie Hawn was the giggling dumb blonde who would innocently say many times: "I forgot the question."

* Jo Anne Worley would sometimes sing songs showing how loud her operatic voice was but mostly would detect "chicken jokes." Many times, during the Cocktail Parties, she talked about her boyfriend Boris (who was a married man).

* Flip Wilson, whose frequent character, the cross-dressing "Geraldine," originated the phrase "What you see is what you get."

* Dan Rowan, as General Bull Right, a right-wing representative of the military establishment and outlet for political humor.

laugh-inMemorable Moments and Catchphrases

The "Rowan and Martins laugh in" show gave plenty of publicity to an unusual-looking man with long hair who sang in a falsetto voice while accompanying himself on ukulele, known as singer Tiny Tim,  He achieved a hit single thanks to his appearances on the show, with his piercing version of the vintage 1920s song "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." Tiny Tim was later married on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to a woman known as Miss Vicky.

Some of the first music videos ever seen on TV were shown in the first season, with cast members appearing in film clips set to the music of the Bee Gees,The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Temptations, the First Edition and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Cast members Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin later became noted film stars. Henry Gibson later starred in the Robert Altman film Nashville (which also featured Tomlin). Dave Madden, whose trademark on the show was to throw a handful of confetti while keeping a deadpan expression at the punch line of a joke, later played the role of Reuben Kincaid in the television sitcom The Partridge Family. Richard Dawson, who previously had a regular part in the sitcom Hogan's Heroes, went on to his defining role as host of the U.S. television game show Family Feud. Larry Hovis, who also was a regular on Hogan's Heroes, was a regular for the first and the fifth seasons. Teresa Graves parlayed her one season on the show into the title role of the police drama Get Christie Love!

Besides those mentioned above, the show created numerous popular catch phrases:

  • "You bet your sweet bippy"
  • "'Ello, 'ello! NBC, beautiful downtown Burbank" (the response to the calls received by a switchboard operator played by Judy Carne). When it went to syndication in 1983 both the NBC logo that was featured in the segment and the network's name in the catch phrase was edited out.
  • "I didn't know that." (Dick Martin's occasional response as to what will happen on an episode)
  • "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's"
  • "Go to your room"
  • "Uncle Al had a lot of medicine last night" (famous line by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal, played by Alan Sues)
  • "I just wanna swing!" (Gladys Ormphby's catchphrase)
  • "Here come da' judge!" (reprising a bit first made famous by comedian Pigmeat Markham and continued by frequent guest star Sammy Davis, Jr.)
  • "One ringy-dingy...two ringy-dingies..." (Ernestine's responses to the rings that would occur while she was waiting for someone to pick up the receiver on the other end of the phone 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 who she would call)
  • "Is that a chicken joke?" (Jo Anne Worley's outraged cry, a takeoff on the Polish jokes of the day)
  • "Verrry interesting...but stupid"
  • "Here comes the big finish, folks!" (usually before the last of a series of guest stars' bad puns)
  • "Sock it to me!"

 

Laugh-in

Cast comings and goings

For the 1968 - '69 and '69 - '70 season, the Rowan and Martins Laugh In show was #1 in the ratings. Judy Carne opted not to renew her contract since she wanted to pursue other projects, though she did make occasional appearances during '6970.  Producer George Schlatter blamed her for breaking up the "family." The show also survived the departures of Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn to remain a top-20 show in '7071. New faces in the 197071 season (joining Tomlin, who first appeared late in the previous season) included tap dancer Barbara Sharma, who would later appear on Rhoda, and Johnny Brown, who later gained fame as the superintendent 'Bookman' on Good Times. Arte Johnson and Henry Gibson would depart after the 197071 season, replaced by Dawson and Larry Hovis, both of whom had also appeared occasionally in the first season. However, the loss of Johnson's many characters caused ratings to drop farther.
 

Rowman Martin Laugh-inThe show celebrated episode #100 in the '7172 season; Worley, Carne, Gibson, Johnson, Graves and Tiny Tim returned 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 F***ing George") and Ed Friendly; a mostly new supporting cast (save holdovers Owens, Dawson, Buzzi and only occasional appearances from Tomlin) was brought in, but the viewers didn't respond and the show was cancelled. This final season, which included ventriloquist Willie Tyler of Willie Tyler and Lester fame and future Match Game panelist Patti Deutsch, never aired in the edited half-hour rerun package that was syndicated to local stations in 1983 and later aired 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 197071 season) were included in Trio's package. Two "Best-of" DVD packages are also available; disappointingly, they only contain six episodes each.

Of the over three dozen entertainers to grace the cast, only Rowan, Martin, Owens and Buzzi were there from beginning to end (although Owens wasn't in the 1967 pilot and Buzzi missed two first-season episodes.)

In 1977 NBC and Schlatter briefly revived the property as a series of specials with an entirely new cast. Among the new folks was a then unknown Robin Williams whose starring role on ABC's Mork & Mindy one season later prompted NBC to rerun the specials as a summer series in 1979.

 

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