One recent Sunday the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate pointed us to pledge week on South Carolina ETV. There it was, in all its glory: Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, presented as a pledge week special put together by the show’s former producer, George Schlatter. Needless to say he picked out the very best bits, and the sketches and lines are still fresh and funny.
Laugh-In was produced in Beautiful Downtown Burbank from 1968 to 1973, and some of the bits seem prophetic: remember the one of then-President Nixon saying “Sock it to me?!” Yeah, they did, didn’t they? They joked about then California Governor Ronald Regan becoming President Regan. In 1981 he did, didn’t he? They joked around about all the troubles in the Middle East, and those same troubles are still there to this day, forty some-odd years later.
|Sock it to Me?!|
It was so neat to see original cast in all their glory, and to anticipate their lines: “Is that another chicken joke?” - “One ringy-dingy, a two ringy-dingies. And a gracious good morning to you sir.” - “Very interesting, but stupid!” - “And that’s the truthhhhh.” - “How about a Walnetto?” - “Oh, I’ll drink to that!” - “Huh?” (That was always Goldie Hawn).
In one sketch, the slyly suggestive Tyrone F. Horneigh sits down and pursues the saggy-stockinged spinster Gladys Ormphby to the edge of the park bench. He leers: “Do you believe in the hereafter?” “Of course!” she counters. “Then you know what I’m here after!” Whereupon she smashes him over the head with her chunky purse.
All of the material was very, very clever, and just squeaked by the censors. “Sometimes,” said Schlatter, “it went too fast for them to catch.” He said that the show was like one big out-take, full of double-entendres, and they had a blast doing it. The TV comedy of that day was either sit-coms or variety show sketches. Like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which started on the BBC around the same time, Laugh-In was “something completely different.” When the Pythons came to American TV the country was (almost) ready for them, having been won over by the zany antics of the Laugh-In crew.
Seeing all those personalities on the special, it was a walk down memory lane: John Wayne, Orson Welles, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Peter Sellers, George Raft, Jack Benny, Sonny & Cher, Kirk Douglas, the still-lovely Raquel Welch, Flip (“That’s Geraldine Jones, Honey!”) Wilson, Sammy (“Here come de Judge) Davis, Jr., Kate Smith, and Frank Sinatra. Looking at the clothes was a hoot too. Bell bottom pants, leisure suits, miniskirts, Nehru jackets; do you think those will ever make a comeback?
Is this the party to whom I am speaking?
The show and many of its regulars were nominated for or won several Golden Globe and Emmy awards for television. Many went on to other pursuits, winning Oscars, Tony’s, Golden Globes and other awards in the movies and on Broadway. The NBC Peacock should be proud of them.
"And that's the Truuuthhhh!"
"And that's the Truuuthhhh!"
Uproarious! – “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!”