Friday Jan. 22, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In

On this Day:

In 1968,  “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” premiered.

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (often simply referred to as Laugh-In) is an American sketch comedy television program that ran for 140 episodes from January 22, 1968, to March 12, 1973, on the NBC television network, hosted by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. It originally aired as a one-time special on September 9, 1967, and was such a success that it was brought back as a series, replacing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on Mondays at 8 pm (ET). It quickly became the most popular television show in the United States.

The title of the show was a play on the 1960s hippie culture “love-ins” or the counterculture “be-ins”, terms that were derived from “sit-ins” that were common in protests associated with civil rights and antiwar demonstrations of the time. In 2002, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was ranked number 42 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

The show featured Gary Owens as the on-screen announcer and permanent cast member Ruth Buzzi; longer-tenured cast members included Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Jo Anne Worley, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Johnny Brown, Dennis Allen and Richard Dawson.

Regular guest performers included: Jack Benny, Johnny Carson, Carol Channing, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Phyllis Diller, Barbara Feldon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Peter Lawford, Rich Little, Jill St. John, Tiny Tim, John Wayne, Flip Wilson and Henny Youngman.

Regular sketches included:

“Sock it to me”; Judy Carne was often tricked into saying the phrase (“It may be rice wine to you, but it’s still sake to me!”), which almost invariably led to her (and other cast members) falling through a trap door, being doused with water, or playfully assaulted in various other manners. The phrase was also uttered by many of the cameo guest stars, most notably Richard Nixon, though they were almost never subjected to the same treatment as Carne.

“The Party”, in which Dan would invite the audience to a wild party attended by the regulars and the guest stars. The orchestra would play a few bars of a dance song, only to temporarily stop while the cast and guests would exchange one-liners.

“The Joke-Wall”, near the end of every episode, the regulars along with the guests would poke out of doors from the wall or floor in a psychedelically-designed wall and exchange one-liners. Rowan and Martin often stood in front of the wall during this segment, though at the top of every episode, when announcer Gary Owens introduced the cast, Rowan and Martin were inside the windows rather than standing in front of the wall. In the sixth season, instead of coming in and out of view, the entire cast just hung out of the holes (as most of the wall doors were removed) and told their jokes and one-liners.

“The Farkel Family”, a couple with numerous children, all of whom had bright red hair and large freckles similar to their “good friend and trusty neighbor” Ferd Berfel (Dick Martin). The sketch employed diversion humor, the writing paying more attention to the lines said by each player, using alliterative tongue-twisters (“That’s a fine-looking Farkel flinger you found there, Frank”). Dan Rowan played father Frank Farkel the Third, Jo Anne Worley, Barbara Sharma and Patti Deutsch played his wife Fanny Farkel, Goldie Hawn played Sparkle Farkel, Arte Johnson played Frank Farkel the Fourth, and Ruth Buzzi played Flicker Farkel. Two of the children were twins named Simon and Gar Farkel, played by cast members of different races (Teresa Graves and Pamela Rodgers in the third season, Johnny Brown and Dennis Allen in the fourth season). All of the Farkel skits were written or co-written by David Panich.

“The Judge”, originally portrayed by British comic Roddy Maude-Roxby, was a stuffy magistrate with a black robe and oversized judge’s wig. Each sketch featured the unnamed judge bantering with a defendant brought before the court. For a time guest star Flip Wilson would introduce the sketch saying “Here come da judge!”, which was a venerable catchphrase by nightclub comedian Pigmeat Markham. Surprised that his trademark had been appropriated, Markham asked producer George Schlatter to let him play the Judge himself; Schlatter agreed and Markham presided for one season. After Markham left, the sketch was briefly retired until Sammy Davis Jr. donned the judicial robe and wig during his guest appearances, introducing each sketch with a rap that always finished with “Here come da judge, here come da judge…”.


“The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award” sardonically recognized actual dubious achievements by public individuals or institutions, the most frequent recipients being members or branches of the government. The trophy was a gilded left hand mounted on a trophy base with its extended index finger adorned with two small wings.

The show also created a number of catchphrases including:

“Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls! (a lesser-known set of reference books whose phonetically funny name helped both Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to poke fun at NBC censors)

“You bet your sweet bippy!”

“One ringy-dingy … two ringy-dingies …” (Ernestine’s mimicking of the rings while she was waiting for someone to pick up the receiver on the other end of the telephone lines)

“Sock it to me!” experienced its greatest exposure on Laugh-In although the phrase had been featured in songs such as Aretha Franklin’s 1967 “Respect” and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels’ 1966 “Sock It To Me, Baby!”

“Blow in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere.”

“Now, that’s a no-no!”

“Want a Walnetto?” was a pick-up line Tyrone would try on Gladys, which always resulted in a purse drubbing.

“Here come da Judge”

“Verrry Interesting”

The show won 7 Emmys and was nominated for 30 more.  

It won 2 Golden Globe Awards: 

1973: Best Supporting Actress – Television, Ruth Buzzi

1969: Best TV Show

And was nominated for 4 more:

1972: Best Supporting Actress – Television, Lily Tomlin

1971: Best Supporting Actor – Television, Henry Gibson

1970: Best TV Show – Musical/Comedy

1968: Best TV Show (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Jeremy Lloyd: Judy, Judy?

Judy Carne: Here I am.

Jeremy Lloyd: What did the chiropractor say to the girl with the bad knee?

Judy Carne: What did the chiropractor say to the girl with the bad knee?

Jeremy Lloyd: The chiropractor said to the girl with the bad knee: what’s a rotten joint like this doing in a nice girl like you?

Dan Rowan: What’s a rotten joke like that doing in a nice joke-wall like this?

Second, a Song:

Here is a slice of Rowan and Martin’s look at the The Sexy Sixties, featuring many of the regular staff.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“I belong to Bridegrooms Anonymous. Whenever I feel like getting married, they send over a lady in a housecoat and hair curlers to burn my toast for me.” – Dick Martin


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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