Laugh In

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was a sketch comedy television show that ran for 140 episodes from January 22, 1968, to May 14, 1973. It was hosted by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and was broadcast over NBC. It originally aired as a one-time special on September 9, 1967 and was such a success that it was brought back as a series, replacing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Mondays at 8 pm (EST). The title of the show was a play on the "love-ins" or "be-ins" of the 1960s hippie culture, terms that were, in turn, derived from "sit-ins", common in protests associated with civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the time. In 2002, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

Each episode followed a somewhat similar format, often including recurring sketches. The show would start with a short dialogue between Rowan and Martin. Shortly afterward, Rowan would intone: "C'mon Dick, let's go to the party". This live-to-tape segment comprised all cast members and occasional surprise celebrities dancing before a 1960s "Mod" party backdrop, delivering one- and two-line jokes interspersed with a few bars of dance music (later adopted on The Muppet Show, which had a recurring segment that is similar to "The Cocktail Party" with absurd moments from characters). The show would then proceed through rapid-fire comedy bits, pre-taped segments, and recurring sketches.

 At the end of every show, Dan Rowan turned to his co-host and said, "Say good night, Dick", to which Martin replied, "Good night, Dick!" (varying a bit from the Burns and Allen old-time radio show). The show then featured cast members opening panels in a psychedelically painted 'joke wall' and telling jokes. As the show drew to a close and the applause died, executive producer George Schlatter's solitary clapping continued even as the screen turned blank and the production logo, network chimes, and NBC logo appeared.

Frequently recurring Laugh-In sketches included:


 Judy Carne was often tricked into saying "Sock it to me", which led to her being doused with water or otherwise assaulted. ("It may be rice wine to you, but it's still sake to me!")

Laugh In
 "The Mod, Mod World" segment, with its own signature tune, comprised brief sketches on a theme interspersed with film footage of female cast members go-go dancing in bikinis, their bodies painted with punchy phrases and pithy wordplay. The dancers were usually Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne and Chelsea Brown; Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley popped up rarely, as did frequent guest Pamela Austin.

 The Judge. Originally portrayed by British comic Roddy Maude-Roxby as a stuffy magistrate with black robe and powdered wig. Each "Judge" sketch would feature an unfortunate defendant brought before the court. Guest star Flip Wilson introduced the sketch with "Here come de judge!," the venerable catchphrase of black nightclub comedian Pigmeat Markham. Markham was surprised that his trademark had been appropriated, and he petitioned producer George Schlatter to let him play The Judge himself. Schlatter complied and Markham sat atop the bench for one season. The sketches were briefly retired until another guest star, Sammy Davis, Jr., donned the judicial robe and wig.
Rowan & Martin's Laughin

“Laugh-In Looks at the News", a parody of network news, introduced by an unjournalistic song and dance chorus line including the female cast members, and often a female guest celebrity. This commented on current events. The segment often included "News of the Past" which lampooned historical events, and "News of the Future", predicting unlikely or bizarre future stories to comic effect. Rowan actually nailed some, mentioning "President Ronald Reagan" in a story from "1988, 20 years from now", eliciting laughter.
LaughIn TV show

New Talent Time, introducing oddball variety acts. The most famous of these performers was Tiny Tim.
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, saluting actual dubious achievements by the government or famous people, such as the announcement of a new Veterans Administration hospital to be erected in Southern California shortly after another such facility was destroyed in the Sylmar earthquake of 1971. The trophy was a gilt, outstretched finger atop a square base. "The flying, fickle finger of fate" was already a familiar catchphrase on the show (Dan Rowan would use the phrase when ushering "new talent" like Tiny Tim on stage).

 Henny Youngman would appear to tell one-liner jokes for apparently no reason. Often, corny one-liners would be followed by the line, "Oh, that Henny Youngman!"
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

Dan Rowan, in addition to hosting, had a recurring character known as General Bull Right, a far-right-wing representative of the military establishment and outlet for political humor.
Laugh-In TV show

 Announcer Gary Owens standing in an old-time radio studio with his hand cupped over his ear, making announcements, often with little relation to the rest of the show, such as (in an overly-dramatic voice), "Earlier that evening..."
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

 Arte Johnson, whose recurring characters included: Wolfgang the German soldier – Wolfgang would comment on the previous gag by saying "Verrry interesting", sometimes with comments such as "...but shtupid!" He eventually would close each show by talking to Lucille Ball as well as the cast of Gunsmoke — both airing opposite Laugh-In on CBS; as well as whatever was on ABC.
Laughin 70s TV show

Tyrone F. Horneigh (pronounced "hor-NIGH," presumably to satisfy the censors) – A dirty old man coming on to Gladys Ormphby (Ruth Buzzi) seated on a park bench, who almost invariably clobbered him with her purse. (Both Tyrone and Gladys became animated characters in the "Nitwits" segments of the 1977 animated television show, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits.) A sample exchange: Tyrone: Do you believe in the hereafter? Gladys: Of course I do! Tyrone: Good. Then you know what I'm here after!
Laugh-In TV show

Piotr Rosmenko, the Eastern European Man – Piotr 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. Occasionally guest star Sammy Davis, Jr. teamed with Johnson as "The Rosmenko Twins."

 Rabbi Shankar (a pun on Ravi Shankar), an Indian guru – Dressed in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudo-mystical Eastern wisdom laden with bad puns. He held up two fingers in a peace sign whenever he spoke.

Tiny Tim Laugh-In

 An unnamed "man in a yellow raincoat" and hat, riding a tricycle. The image of him pedaling, then tipping over and falling, was frequently used between sketches. (Judy Carne was once reported to have said that every member of the cast took turns riding the tricycle at one time or another.)

 Ruth Buzzi, whose recurring characters included: Gladys Ormphby – A drab, though relatively young spinster who was the eternal target of Arte Johnson's Tyrone; when Johnson left the series, Gladys retreated into recurring daydreams, often involving marriages to historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and Benjamin Franklin (both played by Alan Sues). She would typically hit people repeatedly with her purse. The character was recreated, along with Tyrone, in Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. Buzzi also performed as Gladys on Sesame Street and The Dean Martin Show, most notably in the Celebrity Roasts.

 Doris Swizzle – A seedy barfly paired with her husband, Leonard Swizzle, played by Dick Martin.

 Busy Buzzi – A Hedda Hopper/Louella Parsons-style gossip columnist.

 Henry Gibson, with recurring roles as: The Poet – The Poet would hold an oversized flower and read offbeat poems. He pronounced his name "Henrik Ibsen".

 The Parson – A character who made ecclesiastical quips and, in 1970, officiated at a near-marriage for Tyrone and Gladys.

 Lily Tomlin in a Laugh-In publicity photo. Lily Tomlin, whose characters included: Ernestine/Miss Tomlin – An obnoxious telephone operator with no concern for her customers ("'Fair'? Sir, we don't have to be fair. We're the phone company.").

 Edith Ann – A child who ended each of her short monologues with: "And that's the truth", followed by "Pbbbt!" . Tomlin performed her skits in an oversized rocking chair that made her appear small.

 Mrs. Earbore. A "tasteful" society matron, Mrs. Earbore would express quiet disapproval about a tasteless joke or remark, and then rise from her chair with her legs spread, and sometimes got doused with a bucket of water.

 Lily Tomlin later performed Ernestine for Saturday Night Live and Happy New Year, America (hosting the latter in character), and Edith Ann on children's shows such as Sesame Street.

 Judy Carne. In addition to being the "Sock it to me" girl, Carne had two characters known for their robotic speech and movement: Mrs. Robot in "Robot Theater" – A female companion to Arte Johnson's "Mr. Robot", both equally inept.

 The talking Judy Doll, usually played with Arte Johnson who never heeded her warning: "Touch my little body, and I hit!"

 Alan Sues as Big Al – A clueless and fey sports anchor who loved ringing his bell, which he called his "tinkle", and as hungover children's show host "Uncle Al, The Kiddies' Pal"

 Goldie Hawn was best known as the giggling "dumb blonde", stumbling over her lines, especially when she introduced Dan's "News of the Future".

 Jo Anne Worley sometimes sang off-the-wall songs using her loud operatic voice, but is better remembered for her mock outrage at "chicken jokes" and her melodic outcry of "Bo-ring!". Many times, during the Cocktail Parties, she talked about her boyfriend Boris (a married man).

 Barbara Sharma as the dancing meter-maid who ticketed anything from trees to baby carriages, and often praised vice president Spiro Agnew, calling him 'Pres-ee-dent Agnew.'

 Richard Dawson appeared as Hawkins the Butler, who would always start his piece by asking "Permission to...?" and proceed to fall over.

 Flip Wilson, whose character, the female Geraldine, originated the phrase "What you see is what you get". Another catchphrase was "The devil made me do it". Wilson and his alter ego had their own variety show in the early '70s.

 The first season featured some of the first music videos seen on network TV, with cast members appearing in films set to the music of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Bee Gees, The Temptations, the Strawberry Alarm Clock and The First Edition.

During the September 16, 1968 episode, Richard Nixon, running for president, appeared for a few seconds with a disbelieving vocal inflection, asking "Sock it to me?" Nixon was not doused or assaulted. An invitation was extended to Nixon's opponent, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, but he declined. According to George Schlatter, the show's creator, "Humphrey later said that not doing it may have cost him the election", and "[Nixon] said the rest of his life that appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected. And I believe that. And I've had to live with that."

In addition to those already mentioned, the show created numerous catchphrases:

 A six-note pattern preceding a code-word or punchline to an off-color joke, such as "do-doo-doo-da-do-doo ... smack!" or "... family jewels!" (sometimes extended to 18 notes by repeating the GGGDEC pattern two more times before the code-word). This same musical phrase had been used as a "signature" at the end of many pieces played by Spike Jones and his City Slickers.

 "I didn't know that." (Dick Martin's occasional response to what happened on an episode)

 "Easy for you to say!' (Dan Rowan's reply whenever Dick Martin tripped on his tongue during a joke)

 "Ohhh, I'll drink to that." (Martin's response to something Rowan said that he liked.)

 "I was wondering if you'd mind if I said something my aunt once said to me." A phrase that Dick Martin would always say to interrupt Dan Rowan's announcements on what would happen during their next show; this phrase was followed by a story about a bizarre situation that his aunt went through.

 "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls! (a lesser-known set of reference books whose phonetically funny name helped both Laugh-In and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to poke fun at NBC censors)

 "Go to your room."

 "Uncle Al had to take a lot of medicine last night" (line by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal, played by Alan Sues)

 "You bet your sweet bippy!"

 "Here come de judge!" (reprising comedian Pigmeat Markham and further popularized by guest stars Flip Wilson and especially Sammy Davis Jr.)

 "Beautiful downtown Burbank" (various actors/characters, referring tongue-in-cheek to the Los Angeles suburb in which the NBC studios (and thus the program) were located; the same term was frequently used by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson).

 "'Ello, 'ello! NBC, beautiful downtown Burbank" (the response to calls received by a switchboard operator played by Judy Carne). When the series was syndicated in 1983, the NBC logo and the network's name were edited out.

 "And that's the truth." (Edith Ann, summarizing whatever she just said, and capping it with a juicy raspberry)

 "One ringy-dingy...two ringy-dingies..." (Ernestine's mimicking of the rings while she was waiting for someone to pick up the receiver on the other end of the telephone 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 whom she would call

 "I just wanna swing!" Gladys Ormphby's catchphrase

 "Is that a chicken joke?" Jo Anne Worley's outraged cry, a takeoff on Polish jokes

 "Here comes the big finish, folk!" (usually before the last of a series of a star's bad puns)

 "Sock it to me!" experienced its greatest exposure on Laugh-In although the phrase had been featured in songs like Aretha Franklin's 1967 "Respect" and Mitch Ryder's 1966 "Sock It To Me, Baby!"

 "Oh, that Henny Youngman"

 "Marshall McLuhan...what're you doin'?" (Henry Gibson)

 "I don't know. I've never been out with one!" (First introduced by guest star Marcel Marceau, this catch-all punchline would be uttered by any guest star. Goldie: "Are you of the opposite sex?"

 Tiny Tim: "I don't know, Miss Goldie, I've never been out with one.")

 "Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere."

 "Now, that's a no-no!"

 "Tune in next week when Henny Youngman's wife burns Jell-o!"

 "If [so-and-so] married [what's-his-name], divorced him and married {etc.}" The purpose being to try to set up a tongue-twister, involving the last names of celebrities. Example: "If Rosemary Clooney married Regis Toomey, divorced him and married Mickey Rooney, divorced him and married Paul Muni, divorced him and re-married Regis Toomey, she'd be Rosemary Clooney Toomey Rooney Muni Toomey!" Sometimes, the punchline results would be take-offs of songs or plays or products: "If Kaye Ballard married former astronaut Wally Schirra, divorced him, married his brother, she'd be [singing "Que Sera, Sera"] Kaye Schirra Schirra."

 "Morgul the Friendly Drelb" (a pink Abominable Snowman-like character that appeared in the first episode and bombed so badly that his name was used in various announcements by Gary Owens for the rest of the series (usually at the end of the opening cast list, right after Owens himself: "Yours truly, Gary Owens, and Morgul as the Friendly Drelb!") and credited as the author of a paperback collection of the show's sketches)

 "That's the most beautiful thing I ever heard."

Laughin 60s TV show
 "Ring my chimes!"

 "Want a Walnetto?", was a pick-up line Tyrone would try on Gladys, which always resulted in a purse drubbing.

 "We have to stop meeting like this. My wife's getting suspicious." (or some other variant form of the phrase)