Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In


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.

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.

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'.

Daniel Hale 'Dan' Rowan July 22nd, 1922 – September 22nd, 1987    Thomas Richard 'Dick' Martin January 30th, 1922 – May 24th, 2008     Joyce Audrey Botterill (Judy Carne) 27th April 1939 – 3rd September 2015
Lily Tomlin

Ruth Buzzi (left)



Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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