Monday, January 22, 2018

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In 50th Anniversary and Second Season

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In


On January 22nd, 1968, 50 years ago today, the Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In premiered for its very first season. After a successful pilot aired the previous year, NBC, in beautiful downtown Burbank, ordered a full series. You bet your sweet bippy that Laugh-In became one of the zaniest shows ever to grace the small screen. With it's wacky skits, rapid fire jokes, political commentary, self-deprecating humor, and it's sock it to me gags, the show quickly became a hit with audiences. It was all verrrrry interesting. The name Laugh-In pokes fun at the protests and gatherings of the era which included sit-ins and love-ins. You didn't know that? Well look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's!

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Dan Rowan and the beautiful Dick Martin (or so-and-so)

Gary Owens on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Announcer Gary Owens

"A wonderful world of fantasy. That's what Laugh-In brought to the public." - Gary Owens

Comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin met in 1952 when Rowan was a used car salesman and Martin was a bartender. They both had an interest in acting and comedy and when a mutual friend suggested they work together as a comedy team at nightclubs, the Rowan and Martin act was born. They worked their way up the ranks as a comedy duo. In the summer of 1966, they covered as guest hosts on The Dean Martin Show. The exposure catapulted them and producers took notice. NBC needed something to replace the recently canceled show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and to compete with rival network programming Gunsmoke and The Lucy Show. Variety shows were popular in the late 1960s and would be easy to produce and inexpensive. Producer George Schlatter and Ed Friendly developed the concept and produced it under their joint production company. NBC booked a one hour special for September 1967. After premiering as a series, Laugh-In went on for 140 episodes and 6 seasons before being canceled in 1973. The show was insanely popular and helped launch the careers of regulars like Goldie Hawn, Dave Madden and Lily Tomlin. Many writers worked for the show, including SNL's Lorne Michaels, and went on to successful careers in the business. It won several Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globe awards.

Judy Carne on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Judy Carne in beautiful downtown Burbank

Henry Gibson on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Henry Gibson

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

Laugh-In was one-of-a-kind with rapid fire delivery of humor. Inspired by burlesque and vaudeville, a series of skits and gags were stitched together. The end result was a show that jumped from joke to joke at almost a blindingly fast pace. In the earlier days of TV, the only way to put together a show with so many small parts the editors had to splice the footage with a razor and piece it together. Because of this a master was created for each episode which helped preserve the show for future audiences.

Arte Johnson on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Arte Johnson
Alan Sues on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Alan Sues

"This won all those Emmys?"- Don Rickles

I started watching Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In last year with episodes airing on the TV network Decades. The zaniness took some getting used to but once I warmed up to the show I was hooked. So far I've dipped into pretty much every season of the show. Time Life recently released season 2 in a DVD set and having seen the episodes I have to say this one is the highlight of the series. It contains some of the best moments from the show and the cast of regulars had great chemistry.

Chelsea Brown and Goldie Hawn on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Chelsea Brown and Goldie Hawn

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson in the Gladys and Tyrone Skit

"Anne Bancroft is an undergraduate."

On season two you can expect some great comedy and a plethora of extra special guests. Dan Rowan, the straight man, and Dick Martin, the daft womanizer, are lovingly referred to as the big kids. I adore them as a comedy team. Today you can't get away with two middle-aged men dressed in tuxedo, with Rowan puffing away at a cigarette or pipe, delivering some rather adult jokes. Although technically the stars, its the motley crew of comedic talents that steal the show. These include announcer Gary Owens, actresses Ruth Buzzi, Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley and Chelsea Brown and actors Alan Sues, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Dave Madden and Dick Whittington.

Arlene Dahl on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Arlene Dahl

Don Rickles on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Don Rickles, AKA the best special guest ever in the history of mankind

Recurring skits on the show include:

Cocktail Party — The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate — News: past, present and future — Gladys the spinster and Tyrone — Sock it to Me —  Here Comes the Judge —  C.F.G. Automat —  It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World with the painted go-go dancers —  Discovery of the week — Good night Dick — the Joke Wall

My favorite recurring skit? The cocktail party of course!

Classic film enthusiasts will love spotting some of their favorite stars as special guests on the various episodes. And anyone who was anyone made an appearance was on the show. Some of the guests on season two include:

Eve Arden —Jack Benny — Mel Brooks — Rosemary Clooney —  Joseph Cotten — Robert Culp— Tony Curtis — Arlene Dahl — Bobby Darin — Sammy Davis Jr. — Phyllis Diller — Kirk Douglas — Douglas Fairbanks Jr. — Zsa Zsa Gabor — James Garner — Greer Garson — Mitzi Gaynor — Frank Gorshin — Hugh Hefner — Bob Hope — Lena Horne — Rock Hudson — Van Johnson — Martin Landau — Peter Lawford — Jack Lemmon — Gina Lollobrigida — Ann Miller — Bob Newhart — France Nuyen — Otto Preminger — Vincent Price — Don Rickles — Cliff Robertson — Rod Serling — Sonny Tufts — Robert Wagner — John Wayne — Shelley Winters and more...

"Raquel Welch Smothers Brothers."

Guests performed skits, delivered one-lines and jokes while poking fun at the fact that they were on the show. An appearance on Laugh-In could do wonders for a guest. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon appears on season 2 in a short clip asking "sock it to me?" His appearance was credited with helping him win the election. His opponent Hubert Humphrey refused to be on the show and the rest is history.


Second Season

First Season


Time Life's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In Season 2 DVD Box set includes 26 episodes on 7 discs. The first disc includes three interviews with Dick Martin, Gary Owens and Ruth Buzzi. All 26 episodes have been remastered and the set comes with a small booklet highlighting the content on each disc. I encourage you to pick this up because it's infinitely much more enjoyable to watch these restored episodes on DVD than on Decades where the quality is poor and the episodes are highly edited to fit in more commercial time.



Last year Time Life also released a 50th Anniversary set featuring all 140 episodes and 6 seasons of the show.

Thank you to Time Life for sending me the second season set to review!
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