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The American series ‘Laugh-In’, which made its debut on the NBC network in 1968 (later aired in the UK on BBC2), was one of the most innovative comedy programmes to be screened up to that date.

It was a fast-paced show which relied heavily on electronic editing to maintain the snappy quality. The prime-time show was hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and was replete with punch-lines, one-liner jokes, slogans and tightly-edited routines.
Rowan and Martin's Laugh In

Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne
British actress Judy Carne became known as the ‘Sock-it-to-me girl’, as she appeared with the familiar phrase ‘sock-it-to-me’, which led her to be hit in the face by water from a bucket or a custard pie. Another ‘Laugh-In’ girl was Goldie Hawn, who wore tiny bikinis decorated with slogans. Other regulars included Henry Gibson, Joanne Worley and Ruth Buzzi.
Gary Owens was the announcer, opening the show in front of a large mike, with a hand cupped over his ear, announcing, “This is beautiful downtown Burbank,’ a reference to the area where NBS Studios was located. Pigmeat Markham appeared in a judge’s wig to repeat the phrase “Here come de judge” and Lily Tomlin played Ernestine, the switchboard operator, whose catch-phrase was “Is this the party to whom I am speaking?” A heavily-accented Arte Johnson peeked out from plant fronds, wearing a German helmet, quoting lines such as “Verrry interesting…but stupid!” Other catch-phrases included Goldie Hawn saying, “I forgot the question' and Dick Martin saying “I’ll drink to that”, or “You bet your sweet bippy!”

The show always closed with the same signing-off routine, Dan Rowan saying “Say goodnight, Dick” and Martin saying, “Goodnight, Dick.” In between there were other regular words and phrases such as “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls” and “Walnuttos.” Regular routines included a cocktail party scene, a joke wall in which the cast opened and shut windows while quoting one-liners and the presentation of a ‘Fickly Finger of Fate’ award.
Lily Tomlin

Ruth Buzzi (left)

A host of celebrities popped up to quote one-liners including Mae West, Jack Lemmon, Kirk Douglas and Jimmy Durante. John Wayne once appeared saying, “Well, I don’t think that is funny” and Sammy Davis Jr was featured several times... but each time he tried to sing he disappeared through a trap door. Even President Richard Nixon appeared on one show, saying “Sock-it-to-me.” The show was also controversial and one item in its ‘News of the Future’ slot caused the switchboard to be inundated with complaints. The item proclaimed: “Dateline the Vatican, 1988 – With marriage in the church now an accepted practice, the Archbishop and his lovely bride, the former sister Mary Catherine, both announced that this time it’s for keeps – if only for the sake of the children.”
‘Laugh-In’ ran for five years, ending its run in 1973. (The theme tune to the show was 'Inquisitive Tango')


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