Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

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Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.png
Also known asLaugh-In
GenreVariety show
Created by
Directed by
  • Gordon Wiles
  • Mark Warren
Theme music composerIan Bernard
Opening theme"Inquisitive Tango"
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes140 (list of episodes)
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company George Schlatter-Ed Friendly Productions in association with Romart Inc.
Original network NBC
Original releaseJanuary 22, 1968 (1968-01-22) 
March 12, 1973 (1973-03-12)
Related shows
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin (1968) Rowan martin laugh in photo.jpg
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin (1968)

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. [1]

Laugh-In had its roots in the humor of vaudeville and burlesque, but its most direct influences were Olsen and Johnson's comedies (such as the free-form Broadway revue Hellzapoppin' ), the innovative television works of Ernie Kovacs, and the topical satire of That Was The Week That Was . The show was characterized by a rapid-fire series of gags and sketches, many of which conveyed sexual innuendo or were politically charged. The co-hosts continued the exasperated straight man (Rowan) and "dumb guy" (Martin) act which they had established as nightclub comics. [2] [ page needed ] The show featured Gary Owens as the on-screen announcer and permanent castmember 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.


Caricatures of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin by Sam Berman Rowanmartin.jpg
Caricatures of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin by Sam Berman

Each episode followed a somewhat similar format, often including recurring sketches. The show started after the intro and a batch of shorts skits that served as cold open with a short dialogue between Rowan and Martin. Shortly afterward, Rowan would intone: "C'mon Dick, let's go to the party, You're all invited!”. This live to tape segment comprised all cast members and occasional surprise celebrities dancing before a 1960s "mod" party backdrop, delivering one- and two-line jokes interspersed with a few bars of dance music (later adopted on The Muppet Show , which had a recurring segment that was similar to "The Cocktail Party" with absurd moments from characters). This was similar in format to the "Word Dance" segments of A Thurber Carnival . The show then proceeded through rapid-fire comedy bits, taped segments, and recurring sketches.

At the end of every show, Rowan turned to his co-host and said, "Say good night, Dick", to which Martin replied, "Good night, Dick!". The show then featured cast members' opening panels in a psychedelically painted "joke wall" and telling jokes, After which, the show would continue with one final batch of skits, before drawing to a close. After the applause died, executive producer George Schlatter's solitary clapping continued even as the screen turned blank and the production logo, network chimes, and NBC logo appeared.

Although episodes included most of the above segments, the arrangement of the segments was often interchanged. The show often featured guest stars. Sometimes, the guest had a prominent spot in the program, at other times the guest would pop in for short "quickies" (one- or two-line jokes) interspersed throughout the show – as was done most famously by Richard Nixon, when running for president.


Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi in a 1968 Halloween skit Laugh in hawn buzzi.JPG
Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi in a 1968 Halloween skit
Rita Hayworth reprised her Sadie Thompson character on the show in 1971. Rita hayworth laugh in 1971.JPG
Rita Hayworth reprised her Sadie Thompson character on the show in 1971.
John Wayne being fitted for a giant bunny costume, 1972 John Wayne Laugh In 1972.jpg
John Wayne being fitted for a giant bunny costume, 1972

Pilot and season 1

Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson, Ken Berry, Pamela Austin, Barbara Feldon and Jo Anne Worley appeared in the pilot special from 1967. (Goldie Hawn, who was under contract to Good Morning World at the time of the pilot, joined for season 1 in 1968 after that show was canceled). Only the two hosts, announcer Gary Owens, and Buzzi, Carne, Gibson, and Johnson, were in all 14 episodes of season one. Eileen Brennan, Hovis, and Roddy Maude-Roxby left after the first season.

Seasons 2 and 3

The second season had a handful of new people, including Alan Sues, Dave Madden, and Chelsea Brown. All of the new cast members from season two left at the end of that season except Sues, who stayed on until 1972. At the end of the 1968–69 season, Carne chose not to renew her contract, although she did make appearances during 1969–1970.

The third season had several new people who only stayed on for that season: Teresa Graves, Jeremy Lloyd, Pamela Rodgers, and Byron Gilliam. Lily Tomlin joined in the middle of the season. Jo Anne Worley, Goldie Hawn, and Judy Carne left after the season.

Seasons 4 and 5

The 1970–71 season brought new additions to the cast include tall, lanky, sad-eyed Dennis Allen, who alternately played quietly zany characters and the straight man for anybody's jokes; comic actress Ann Elder, who also contributed to scripts, tap dancer Barbara Sharma, and Johnny Brown.

Arte Johnson, who created many memorable characters, insisted on star billing, apart from the rest of the cast. The producer mollified him, but had announcer Gary Owens read Johnson's credit as a separate sentence: "Starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin! And Arte Johnson! With Ruth Buzzi ..." This maneuver gave Johnson star billing, but made it sound like he was still part of the ensemble cast. Johnson and Henry Gibson left the show during the fourth season; they were replaced by former Hogan's Heroes stars Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis, both of whom had appeared occasionally in the first season. However, the loss of Johnson's many popular characters caused ratings to drop further.

The show celebrated its 100th episode during the 1971–72 season, with Carne, Worley, Johnson, Gibson, Graves, and Tiny Tim all returning for the festivities. John Wayne was on hand for his first cameo appearance since 1968.

Season 6

For the show's final season (1972–73), Rowan and Martin assumed the executive producer roles from George Schlatter (known on-air as "CFG", which stood for "Crazy Fucking George"), and Ed Friendly. Except for holdovers Dawson, Owens, Buzzi, Allen, and only occasional appearances from Tomlin, a new cast was brought in. This final season featured comedian Patti Deutsch, folksy singer-comedian Jud Strunk, ventriloquist act Willie Tyler and Lester, and giddy Goldie Hawn lookalike Sarah Kennedy. Former regular Jo Anne Worley returned for two guest appearances, including the final episode. These last shows never aired in the edited half-hour reruns syndicated (through Lorimar Productions) to local stations in 1983 and later on Nick at Nite in 1987, although they were included when the program was rerun on the Decades over-the-air television channel in 2017.

Of over three dozen entertainers to join the cast, only Rowan, Martin, Owens, and Buzzi were there from beginning to end. However, Owens was not in the 1967 pilot and Buzzi missed two first-season episodes.

Cast tenures

John Wayne and Tiny Tim helped Laugh-In celebrate its 100th episode in 1971. John Wayne Tiny Tim Laugh In 1971.JPG
John Wayne and Tiny Tim helped Laugh-In celebrate its 100th episode in 1971.

Regular guest performers

Series writers

The writers for Laugh-In were: George Schlatter, Larry Hovis (pilot only), Digby Wolfe, Paul W. Keyes, [4] Hugh Wedlock, Jr. and Allan Manings, Chris Bearde (credited as Chris Beard), Phil Hahn and Jack Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson (Arte Johnson's twin brother), Marc London and David Panich, Dave Cox, Jim Carlson, Jack Mendelsohn and Jim Mulligan, Lorne Michaels and Hart Pomerantz, Jack Douglas, Jeremy Lloyd, John Carsey, Dennis Gren, Gene Farmer, John Rappaport and Stephen Spears, Jim Abell and Chet Dowling, Barry Took, E. Jack Kaplan, Larry Siegel, Jack S. Margolis, Don Reo and Allan Katz, Richard Goren (also credited as Rowby Greeber and Rowby Goren), Winston Moss, Gene Perret and Bill Richmond, Jack Wohl, Bob Howard and Bob DeVinney. Script supervisors for Laugh-In included Digby Wolfe (comedy consultant, season 1), Phil Hahn and Jack Hanrahan (season 2), Allan Manings (season 3), Marc London and David Panich (seasons 3–6), and Jim Mulligan (season 6).

Musical direction and production numbers

The musical director for Laugh-In was Ian Bernard. [5] He wrote the opening theme music, "Inquisitive Tango" (used in Season 1 and again permanently from season 4), plus the infamous "What's the news across the nation" number. He wrote all the musical "play-ons" that introduced comedy sketches like Lily Tomlin's character, Edith Ann, the little girl who sat in a giant rocking chair, and Arte Johnson's old man character, Tyrone, who always got hit with a purse. He also appeared in many of the cocktail scenes where he directed the band as they stopped and started between jokes. Composer-lyricist Billy Barnes wrote all of the original musical production numbers in the show, and often appeared on-camera, accompanying Johnson, Buzzi, Worley, or Sues, on a golden grand piano. Barnes was the creator of the famous Billy Barnes Revues of the 1950s and 1960s, and composed such popular hits as "I Stayed Too Long at the Fair", recorded by Barbra Streisand and the jazz standard "Something Cool" recorded by June Christy.[ citation needed ]


The show was recorded at NBC's Burbank facility using two-inch quadruplex videotape. As computer-controlled online editing had not been invented at the time, post-production video editing of the montage was achieved by the error-prone method of visualizing the recorded track with ferrofluid and cutting it with a razor blade or guillotine cutter and splicing with adhesive tape, in a manner similar to film editing. This had the incidental benefit of ensuring the preservation of the master tape, as a spliced tape could not be recycled for further use. Laugh-In editor Arthur Schneider won an Emmy Award in 1968 for his pioneering use of the "jump cut" – the unique editing style in which a sudden cut from one shot to another was made without a fade-out. [6] [ page needed ]

When the series was restored for airing by the Trio Cable Network in 1996, the aforementioned edits became problematic for the editors, as the adhesive used on the source tape had deteriorated during 20+ years of storage, making many of the visual elements at the edit points unusable. This was corrected in digital re-editing by removing the problematic video at the edit point and then slowing down the video image just before the edit point; time-expanding the slowed-down section long enough to allot enough time to seamlessly reinsert the audio portion from the removed portion of video.

Recurring sketches and characters

Rowan and Martin with Judy Carne in 1967 Judy Carne Rowan Martin Laugh In 1967.JPG
Rowan and Martin with Judy Carne in 1967


Frequently recurring Laugh-In sketches included:


Johnny Brown, 1971 Johnny Brown Laugh-In 1971.jpg
Johnny Brown, 1971
The Tasteful Lady (Lily Tomlin) entertains Rita Hayworth, 1971 Lilly Tomlin Rita Hayworth Laugh-In 1971.JPG
The Tasteful Lady (Lily Tomlin) entertains Rita Hayworth, 1971

Memorable moments

The first season featured some of the first music videos seen on network TV, with cast members appearing in films set to the music of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Bee Gees, the Temptations, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the First Edition.

During the September 16, 1968, episode, Richard Nixon, running for president, appeared for a few seconds with a disbelieving vocal inflection, asking "Sock it to me?" Nixon was not doused or assaulted. An invitation was extended to Nixon's opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, but he declined. [9] According to George Schlatter, the show's creator, "Humphrey later said that not doing it may have cost him the election", and "[Nixon] said the rest of his life that appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected. And I believe that. And I've had to live with that." [4] [10] In an episode of the ill-fated 1977 revival, a Nixon impersonator says, "I invited the American people to sock-it-to-me.... you can stop now".[ citation needed ]

After winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Cactus Flower, Goldie Hawn made a guest appearance in the third episode of the fourth season. She began the episode as an arrogant snob of an actress; however, a bucket of water thrown at her transformed her back to her giggling dumb blonde persona.

On multiple occasions, producer George Schlatter attempted to get William F. Buckley Jr. to appear on the show, only to be refused each time until he suddenly agreed to an appearance. In the episode that aired December 28, 1970, Buckley appeared in an unusual sit-down segment (portions of which were scattered throughout the episode) flanked by Rowan and Martin and fielding questions from the cast (which included Lily Tomlin doing her Fast Talker shtick) and giving humorous answers to each. Near the end, when Rowan asked Buckley why he finally agreed to appear on the show, Buckley explained that Schlatter had written him "an irresistable letter" in which he promised to fly Buckley out to Burbank "in an airplane with two right wings". At the end, Rowan thanked him for appearing, noting that "you can't be that smart without having a sense of humor, and you have a delightful one".


In addition to those already mentioned, the show created numerous catchphrases:

Merchandise tie-ins and spin-offs

A humor magazine tie-in, Laugh-In Magazine, was published for one year (12 issues: October 1968 through October 1969—no issue was published December 1968), and a 1968-1972 syndicated newspaper comic strip was drawn by Roy Doty [11] and eventually collected for a paperback reprint.

The Laugh-In trading cards from Topps had a variety of items, such as a card with a caricature of Jo Anne Worley with a large open mouth. With a die-cut hole, the card became interactive; a finger could be inserted through the hole to simulate Worley's tongue. Little doors opened on Joke Wall cards to display punchlines.

On Letters to Laugh-In , a short-lived spin-off daytime show hosted by Gary Owens, cast members read jokes sent in by viewers, which were scored by applause meter. The eventual winning joke was read by actress Jill St. John: "What do you get when you cross an elephant with a jar of peanut butter? A 500 pound sandwich that sticks to the roof of your mouth!"

A cross-promotional episode of I Dream of Jeannie ("The Biggest Star in Hollywood", February 1969) features Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Gary Owens, and producer George Schlatter playing themselves in a story about Jeannie being sought after to appear on Laugh-In.

In 1969, a Laugh-In View-Master packet was issued by General Aniline and Film (GAF); The packet featured 21 3D images from the show. [12]

The horror spoof film The Maltese Bippy (1969) starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin was loosely related to the series. Pamela Rodgers was the only Laugh-In cast member to co-star in the film.

In 1969, Sears, Roebuck and Company produced a 15-minute short, Freeze-In, which starred series regulars Judy Carne and Arte Johnson. Made to capitalize on the popularity of the series, the short was made for Sears salesmen to introduce the new Kenmore freezer campaign. A dancing, bikini-clad Carne provided the opening titles with tattoos on her body. [13]

Two LPs of material from the show were released: the first on Epic Records (FXS-15118, 1968); the second, entitled Laugh-In '69, on Reprise Records (RS 6335, 1969).

DVD releases

Between 2003 and 2004, Rhino Entertainment Company (under its Rhino Retrovision classic TV entertainment brand), under license from the rightsholder at the time, SFM Entertainment, released two The Best Of releases of the show, each containing six episodes presented in its original, uncut broadcast version. In 2003, Rhino, through direct-response marketing firm Guthy-Renker, also released a series of DVDs subtitled The Sock-It-To-Me Collection, with each DVD containing two episodes.

On June 19, 2017, Time Life, another direct-response marketer, released Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time, in a deal with current rightsholder Proven Entertainment. [14] The 38-disc set contains all 140 episodes of the series, complete and uncut, restored and remastered as well as many bonus features and a special 32-page collector's book.

On September 5, 2017, Time Life began releasing individual complete season sets on DVD, beginning with the first season. [15] This was followed by the second season on January 9, 2018, [16] and the third season on March 6, 2018. [17] The fourth season was released on May 8, 2018. [18] Season 5 was released on July 10, 2018. Finally, Season 6 was released on September 4, 2018. [19]

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The Complete First Season14September 5, 2017
The Complete Second Season26January 9, 2018
The Complete Third Season26March 6, 2018
The Complete Fourth Season26May 8, 2018
The Complete Fifth Season24July 10, 2018
The Complete Sixth Season24September 4, 2018
The Complete Series140June 19, 2017


TV season, ranking, average viewers per episode


In 1977, Schlatter and NBC briefly revived the property as a series of specials – titled simply Laugh-In – with a new cast. The standout was a then-unknown Robin Williams, whose starring role on ABC's Mork & Mindy one year later prompted NBC to rerun the specials as a summer series in 1979. Also featured were Wayland and Madame (as well as his other puppet, "Jiffy"), former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner, former Barney Miller actress June Gable, and Good Times actor Ben Powers. Rowan and Martin, who owned part of the Laugh-In franchise, were not involved in this project. They sued Schlatter for using the format without their permission, and won a judgment of $4.6 million in 1980.

In 2019, Netflix produced a special tribute to the original series entitled, Still Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate. [26] Tomlin, Buzzi and Worley appeared in the special.

Awards and honors

Emmy Awards

Golden Globe Award

International and U.S. re-broadcasts

1983 saw the first 70 one-hour shows syndicated to broadcast stations (the pilot, first three seasons and the first four episodes of season 4). Alternate recut half-hour shows were syndicated through Lorimar Television to local stations in 1983 and later on Nick at Nite in 1987 through August 1990.

The Vivendi Universal-owned popular arts/pop culture entertainment cable network Trio started airing the show in its original one-hour form in the early 2000s; the same abbreviated 70 episode package was run.

In September 2016, digital sub-network Decades started airing the show twice a day in its original one-hour format, complete with the NBC Peacock opening and 'snake' closing. The entire 6 season run was supplied by Proven Entertainment.

In 2018, the original series became available in full on Amazon Prime Video.

In 2020, the complete series became available on Tubi. The show is currently seen on IMDb TV.

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