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Laugh-In

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was a United States comedy television show broadcast from January 22, 1968 through 1973 over the NBC Network. The title "Laugh-In" was a play on a popular 1960s concept called a "love-in," where people would get together to protest war by singing songs and holding hands. Hosted by the comedy team of Dan Rowan[?] and Dick Martin[?] (Rowan typically played the straight man), the show was characterized by a rapid-fire series of gags and sketches, many of which had a sexual innuendo. It featured several running gags, including:

  • Shortly after the beginning of the show was a scene called The Party, with all cast members dancing in a swinging 1960s party atmosphere, in between delivering one and two line jokes.
  • Arte Johnson portrayed a number of recurring characters, including:
    • The Nazi soldier, commenting on the previous gag by saying Verrry Interesting sometimes with additional comments.
    • The Dirty Old Man, coming on to Ruth Buzzi[?] (dressed as an extremely drab old lady) seated on a park bench, who inevitably hit him with her purse.
    • The Eastern European Man, who stood 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 predated a similar schtick by Yakov Smirnoff.
    • The Indian Guru, dressed in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudo-Mystical Eastern Wisdom laden with bad puns.
  • A man in a yellow raincoat riding a tricycle and crashing.
  • The Farkle Family, many of whose first names all began with "F", and all of whom had flaming red hair and freckles, except for the father; the father of the family next door also had flaming red hair and freckles.
  • The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate award noting dubious achievements by the government of famous people.
  • Judy Carne[?] was often tricked into saying "sock it to me", which then led to her being doused with water or otherwise assaulted. "Sock it to me" became a catch-phrase for the show. On one occasion, Richard Nixon, who was running for President in 1968, appeared for a few seconds and asked the question, "Sock it to me?". Some people even credit that brief appearance for handing the very close election to Nixon that year.
  • Los Angeles disc jockey Gary Owens[?] standing with his hand cupped over his ear, giving an announcement.
  • Henry Gibson[?] holding a flower and reading a poem.
  • Scenes of people dancing at a party, including bikini-clad women (notably Goldie Hawn) with jokes written on their bodies.
  • Lily Tomlin as an obnoxious telephone operator and as a child named "Edith Ann".
  • Alan Sues[?] as a clueless sports anchor
  • Flip Wilson[?], whose frequent character, the cross-dressing "Geraldine," originated the phrase "What you see is what you get".
  • "Laugh-In Brings You The News", a parody of a network newscast commenting on current events, "News of the Past" which lampooned historical events, and a segment on "News of the Future", predicting bizarre unlikely future news stories. This was years before Saturday Night Live offered its own parody news.

At the end of the show, Dan Rowan turned to his co-host and said, "It's time to say good-night, Dick", to which Martin replied, "Good-night, Dick" (reprising a bit from the old George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show). The show then featured various cast members opening panels in a psychedelically painted wall and telling short jokes to one another. As the show drew to a close and the general applause died down, the sound of one person clapping continued even as the screen turned blank.

The show gave considerable publicity to singer Tiny Tim, an unusual looking man with long hair who sang in a falsetto voice while accompanying himself on ukulele, who (thanks to his appearances on the show) achieved a hit single with "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". Tiny Tim was later married on the Tonight Show to a woman known as Miss Vicky.

Cast members Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn later became a 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 for 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 US television game show Family Feud.

Besides "sock it to me" and "Good night, Dick", the show featured other popular catch phrases:

  • "And that's the truth" (followed by the Bronx cheer)
  • "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls"
  • "You bet your Sweet Bippy"
  • "Here Come The Judge!" (reprising a bit first made famous by comedian Pigmeat Markham)
  • "We're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to."
  • "Was that a chicken joke?"

There was also a Laugh-In Magazine published for about 2 years; it was similar to MAD Magazine.

See also: Farkle, Alan Sues[?], Jo Ann Worley[?].

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