Bring Laugh-In Home!

(Hover over the link)

 The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In DVD

 The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Vol. 2 DVD

 From Beautiful downtown Burbank: A Critical History of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in 1968-1973


Show Type: Comedy/Variety

First Telecast: January 22, 1968

Last Telecast: May 14, 1973

Broadcast History:

January 1968 – May 1973, Monday 8:00-9:00 on NBC


Dan Rowan

Dick Martin

Gary Owens

Ruth Buzzi

Judy Carne (1968-1970)

Eileen Brennan (1968)

Goldie Hawn (1968-1970)

Arte Johnson (1968-1971)

Henry Gibson (1968-1971)

Roddy-Maude Roxby (1968)

Jo Anne Worley (1968-1970)

Larry Hovis (1968, 1971-1972)

Pigmeat Markham (1968-1969)

Charlie Brill (1968-1969)

Dick Whittington (1968-1969)

Mitzi McCall (1968-1969)

Chelsea Brown (1968-1969)

Alan Sues (1968-1972)

Dave Madden (1968-1969)

Teresa Graves (1969-1970)

Jeremy Lloyd (1969-1970)

Pamela Rodgers (1969-1970)

Byron Gilliam (1969-1970)

Ann Elder (1970-1972)

Lily Tomlin (1970-1973)

Johnny Brown (1970-1973)

Dennis Allen (1970-1973)

Nancy Phillips (1970-1971)

Barbara Sharma (1970-1972)

Harvey Jason (1970-1971)

Richard Dawson (1971-1973)

Moosie Drier (1971-1973)

Patti Deutsch (1972-1973)

Jud Strunk (1972-1973)

Brian Bressler (1972-1973)

Sarah Kennedy (1972-1973)

Donna Jean Young (1972-1973)

Tod Bass (1972-1973)

Lisa Farringer (1972-1973)

Willie Tyler & Lester (1972-1973)


Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was one of TV’s classics, one of those rare programs which was not only an overnight sensation, but was highly innovative, created a raft of new stars, and started trends in comedy which other programs would follow. In some ways, it was not original at all, being a cross between Olsen & Johnson's Helzapoppin' (which in turn traced its lineage to the frantic, knockabout comedy of the Keystone Cops) and the highly topical satire of That Was The Week That Was. But Laugh-In crystallized a kind of contemporary, fast-paced, unstructured comedy “happening” that was exactly what an agitated America wanted in 1968.

Laugh In was first seen as a one-time special on September 9, 1967. It was such an enormous hit that it inevitably led to a series premiering the following January. Its lightning-fast pace took full advantage of the technical capabilities of television and videotape. Blackouts, sketches, one-liners, and cameo appearances by famous show-business celebrities and even national politicians were all edited into a frenetic whole. The regular cast was large and the turnover high, and of the 40 regulars who appeared in the series only four were with it from beginning to end – the two hosts, announcer Gary Owens, and Ruth Buzzi.

The essence of Laugh-In was shtick, a comic routine or trademark repeated over and over until it was closely associated with a performer. People love it, come to expect it, and talk about it the next morning after the show. All great comedians have at least one, but what was remarkable about Laugh-In was that it developed a whole repertoire of sight gags and catchphrases using little-known talent exclusively (though some of them became quite famous later). Among the favorites: Arte Johnson as the German soldier, peering out from behind a potted palm and murmuring, "Verrrry interesting!"; Ruth Buzzi as the little old lady with an umbrella, forever whacking the equally decrepit old man who snuggled up beside her on a park bench; Lily Tomlin as the sarcastic, nasal telephone operator (even the phone company wanted to hire her to do commercials using that routine – she wouldn't); Gary Owens as the outrageously over-modulated announcer, facing the microphone, hand cupped to ear; Alan Sues as the grinning moron of a sports announcer; Goldie Hawn as the giggling dumb blonde, and so on.

Some of the devices of the show were the Cocktail Party, Letters to Laugh-In, The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, Laugh-In Looks at the News (of the past, present, and future), Hollywood News with Ruth Buzzi, the gags written on the undulating body of a girl in a bikini, and the joke wall at the close of each show, in which cast members kept popping out of windows to throw each other one-liners – or a bucket of water.

Many catchphrases came out of the sketches and blackouts on Laugh-In, and some became national bywords. It is said that a foreign delegate at the United Nations once approached an American emember of that organization to ask, in all seriousness, “I have heard a phrase in your country that I do not understand. What is it you mean by ‘bippy?” Besides “You bet your bippy,” there were: "Sock it to me" (splash!); "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," "Beautiful Downtown Burbank," and even "Here come da judge!"

The pace never let up. If it wasn't a short clip of a rain-coated adult falling off a tricycle, it was a shot of Richard M. Nixon declaring solemnly declaring "Sock it to me." It didn't even end at the closing credits, as jokes kept flying and, finally, one pair of hands was heard clapping until a station break forcibly took over.

Laugh-In went straight to the top of the TV ratings and was the number-one program on the air for its first two full seasons, 1968-1970. It then began to drop off as the best talent left to pursue newfound careers, and finally ended its run in 1973.