Looking back at 'Laugh-In': Fateful fickle finger flies again

February 06, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

You could look it up in your Funk and Wagnall's. "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" burst onto television in 1968 like no other series before or since. Soon, even President Richard M. Nixon clamored to appear to say the memorable line, "Sock it to me."

Original producer George Schlatter offers a retrospective look at the silly shtick series tomorrow night, in "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In 25th Anniversary" (9 o'clock on NBC, WMAR-Channel 2).

And to take you back to those psychedelic days (now there's a word you don't hear often anymore), take this "Laugh-In" trivia quiz:

1. How did the show get its start, and where was it made?

2. What two major film stars got their earliest exposure on the series? (Easy.)

3. What two lesser lights were the only performers, other than hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, to be on the show through its entire run? (Harder.)

4. What two escapees from the series "Hogan's Heroes" did stints as "Laugh-In" regulars? (Real hard.)

5. The series frequently offered a facetious award for dubious achievements. Can you name this somewhat suggestive trophy?

6. Capitalizing on the show's success, its hosts made a movie whose title traded on the series connection and also spoofed a well-known detective film. What was it?

7. Who was the original "sock it to me" girl, and what happened whenever she uttered those words?

8. A longtime comedian previously known pretty much only in black entertainment circles won national exposure in "Laugh-In." Who was he and what were his trademark words?

Bonus: What kid did news reports from a treehouse?

While you are mulling the answers, know that in its first two seasons, NBC's "Laugh-In" was the top-rated program on the air. In the fall of 1977, an attempt to revive it as a series of specials, without Rowan and Martin, aired for a short time, and reruns also were seen in syndication in 1984.

The answers:

1. The first "Laugh-In" aired as a one-time special on Sept. 9, 1967, a frantically paced cross between the stage's vaudeville-styled "Hellzapoppin'" and Britain's satire series "That Was the Week That Was." Huge ratings compelled producers to develop it as a series, which premiered as a mid-season show on Jan. 22, 1968. It ran until May 1973.

It came to us, of course, from "beautiful downtown Burbank," home of NBC Studios.

2. Goldie Hawn was an original "Laugh-In" cast member and stayed to 1970. Lily Tomlin was on the show from 1970-73, and originated her snippy telephone operator and little girl Edith Ann characters on the show, among others.

3. Although the show had 40 regulars over the course of its run, only Ruth Buzzi and Gary Owens (the announcer) were seen throughout, along with the hosts. (Dan Rowan died in 1987, but Dick Martin moved on to more directing and performing, and was seen just this season in a guest shot on the CBS series "Bob.")

4. "Hogan's" prisoners Larry Hovis and Richard Dawson were each regulars for several seasons.

5. You wouldn't really want to win The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate award.

6. Rowan and Martin starred in the 1969 film "The Maltese Bippy," which sprang from the "Laugh-In" phrase "You bet your bippy."

7. English actress Judy Carne said "sock it to me," upon which she would be doused with water in a variety of ways.

8. The legendary Pigmeat Markham boomed the words "here come de judge" in a regular sequence of skits that led him to produce two record albums in 1968.

Bonus: Remember the kid-reporter sign-off? "This is Moosie Drier reporting from the treehouse."

(Answer sources include "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows," published by TV Guide, and John Javna's "Cult TV.")


AN AUDUBON SPECIAL -- Actor Lou Gossett Jr. takes a nice cable journey on the latest "World of Audubon" special, at 10 p.m. tomorrow on the TBS service.

In "Caribbean Cool," the Brooklyn-born actor who spent boyhood summers in the islands explores the developing conservation movement on four of the Windward Islands, focusing on efforts to save unique species of parrots.

The show offers an interestingly different view of the tourist region.

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