Sunday, March 25, 2007

Laugh-In



ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN was a show that I have to say I never truly "grokked." I watched it fairly often as a child because it was the hip thing to do but it always left a kind of a bad taste in my mouth afterwards. It wasn’t dirty—not even in a BENNY HILL way—but it SEEMED dirty which was almost worse. "Sock it to me?" What the hell was that all about? Sock what? "Sock" sounds like "suck" which is dirty isn’t it? Wasn’t it? Was it?? And I would never in a million years bet my sweet bippy!!!!
Anyway, what I did like was the ensemble cast. I never quite understood why all of these hip, mini-skirted babes and nehru jacketed guys were hanging around with two lounge comics like Rowan and Martin though. Arte Johnson was my favorite and in a perfect world this multi-talented comic actor would have been a big star. Deadpan Henry Gibson actually almost became one with Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE where he proved to be a versatile actor. Judy Carne’s English accent alone made her cool during the British Invasion era and her willingness to do anything for a laugh helped. Joanne Worley just seemed like a nice, funny lady who dressed strangely—a lot like some of my mom’s friends. Ruth Buzzi—Ah, Ruthie! She may have been the ultimate TV plain Jane but she was a comic gem! Loved her on this and everything from THAT GIRL to SESAME STREET! Gary Owens, already recognizable as the voice of SPACE GHOST, was fun to just listen to and Alan Sues just seemed a tad perverted no matter what he did which I guess was supposed to be amusing.
Then, of course, there was Goldie Hawn. Goldie was a bit skinny and waifish looking on LAUGH-IN but had an absolutely priceless giggle. The only time we really see this Goldie in movies is in her first co-starring vehicle, CACTUS FLOWER. From THERE’S A GIRL IN MY SOUP and BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE through the wonderful FOUL PLAY and the more recent BANGER SISTERS, Goldie matures into a marvelous free-spirited comic and dramatic actress right before our eyes.

The editor was the real star of LAUGH-IN with cameos and brief cuts abundant throughout. Unlikely folks such as John Wayne, Tiny Tim and Richard Nixon of all people made their marks in TV history on LAUGH-IN. Ringmasters Rowan and Martin were okay. Certainly they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Over the years since Dan’s death, I have developed a much greater respect for Dick Martin as a comedy writer and a master of comic timing.

Whatever made the whole mix work was missing when Producer George Schlatter attempted a revival less than a decade later with an all new ensemble cast out of which all I can even recall is a pre-Mork Robin Williams and a promising but now forgotten comic named Lennie Schultz. Love it or hate it, LAUGH-IN was of its time and even attempted (edited) reruns seem horribly dated. You bet your sweet…nope. Still can’t say that.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

i was born in 1960 so you can calculate my age when Laugh-In was on TV.
I never missed a show. I had 0/Zero TV restrictions as a kid.
I didn't even have a real bed time.
I usually went to bed after my grandfather and I watched Fahey Flynn on the Channel 7 news at 10pm. (one benefit of the central time zone.)

Laugh-In, however sexual or suggestive, didn't faze anyone in my house. I got most of the jokes and enjoyed the show.

Having said that I didn't enjoy some reruns I saw in years past.
Many of the jokes were now out-dated since they were topical when first broadcast.

I admit -- I did think "Sock It To Me" was stupid, but I never thought it was dirty or offensive.
"You Bet Your Sweet Bippy" was also quite silly.

The one repeated joke line that I recall is ..."Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls".
Funk and Wagnalls was a legit encyclopedia publisher but Rowan and Martin loved playing up the word "Funk" because at the time James Brown was making it a part of the music lexicon.

I do agree that Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson and Gary Owens were outstanding.
Goldie Hawn never impressed me much on this show. Ruth Buzzi was always funny.
Alan Sues--eh.
Jo Anee Worley-very funny.
Judy Carne--loved the accent and she could be funny.

I miss Rowan & Martin.
I don't miss Laugh In.

stephen said...

I remember watching reruns in the late 80s, and it was unwatchable.

Its quick edits were said to inspire Sesame Place, whose viewers grew up to watch MTV.

Everything ties in.

Anonymous said...

I agree --now it's unwatchable.

having said that I liked Benny Hill back when it was first run.

Now I can't watch it either.
It just bores me.

and I never liked Three's Company not that it has ANYTHING to do with this topic.

alan
jettblackberryx@yahoo.com

Sean said...

I watched some reruns on the late lamented TRIO channel awhile back. Extremely dated but put in the context of the time still funny in spots. The only drawback (shared with the Benny Hill reruns on BBC America right now) is it seemed like there's a very limited number of episodes available as they would cycle through the shows from the first couple of seasons pretty often but not much from the last year.

That said, seeing some of those first few episodes gave me a whole new appreciation for Barbara Feldon.