The Best of Laugh-In
Send this via e-mail
3-DVD Combo includes:
- The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in - Anniversary Special
- The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in - Looks at Holiday
- The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in - Looks at Love & Romance
Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In was the NBC comedy-variety program which became an important training ground for a generation of comic talent. If The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour captured the political earnestness and moral conscience of the 1960s counterculture, Laugh-In snared its flamboyance, its anarchic energy, and its pop aesthetic, combining the black-out comedy of the vaudeville tradition with a 1960s-style "happening."
In an age of "sit-ins," "love-ins" and "teach-ins," NBC was proposing a "laugh-in" which somehow bridged generational gaps. Originally a one-shot special, Laugh-in was an immediate hit and quickly became the highest-rated series of the late 1960s. In a decade of shouted slogans, bumper stickers, and protest signs, Laugh-In translated its comedy into discrete one-liners hurled helter-skelter at the audience in hopes that some of them would prove funny. Many of them became catch-phrases: "Sock it to me," "Here come de judge," "You bet your sweet bippy," and "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls."
In this frenetic and fragmented series, comic lines were run as announcements along the bottom of the screen, printed in lurid colors on the bodies of bikini-clad go-go girls, and shouted over the closing credits. The humor was sometimes topical, sometimes nonsensical, sometimes "right on" and sometimes right of center, but it largely escaped the censorship problems which besieged the Smothers Brothers. Its helter-skelter visual style stretched the capabilities of television and video-tape production, striving for the equivalent of the cutting and optical effects Richard Lester brought to the Beatles movies.
Laugh-In broke down the traditional separation of comedy, musical performance, and dramatic interludes which had marked most of the earlier variety shows and changed the celebrity host's conventional position as mediator of the flow of entertainment. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, successful Las Vegas entertainers, sought to orchestrate the proceedings but were constantly swamped by the flow of sight-gags and eccentric performances which surrounded them. Similarly, guest stars played no privileged role here.
For a time, everyone seemed to want to appear on Laugh-In, with guests on one memorable episode including Jack Lemmon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hugh Hefner, and presidential candidate Richard Nixon. But no guest appeared for more than a few seconds at a time, and none received the kind of screen time grabbed by the program's ensemble of talented young clowns.
The comic regulars -- Gary Owens' over-modulated announcer, Ruth Buzzi's perpetually-frustrated spinster, Arte Johnson's lecherous old man, Goldie Hawn's dizzy blonde, Jo Anne Worley's anti-Chicken Joke militant, Henry Gibson's soft-spokenly banal poet, Lily Tomlin's snorting telephone operator, Pigmeat Markham's all-powerful Judge, and countless others -- dominated the program. Many of these comics moved almost overnight from total unknowns to household names and many became important stars for the subsequent decades.