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9

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in (1967-1973)

In the history of commercial television there have been few shows that could be considered phenomenonal. Time for Beany was one, closely followed by I Love Lucy and the original Dragnet. And then, moving into the late 1960's, we find Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in (RAMLI), a genuine phenomenon for which I had the good fortune to experience firsthand. From the IMDb:

This show popularized a rapid style of vignette comedy show where comedy sketches, punch-lines and gags are edited together in a rapid and almost random format. Regular trademark elements included the joke wall, the dancing women painted with one-liners and the fickle finger of fate award. This series inspired such shows as Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) and Sesame Street (1969). Many of the original one-hour shows were re-edited into two half-hour programs in the early 1980s for syndication. Often, bloopers and outtakes were used to fill out a segment, especially during the joke wall sequence which occurred at the end of each show during the closing credits. New graphics were generated for credits on re-edited endings and run in the same sequence as the originals, but were in a different font.

I think that it also inspired Saturday Night Live since SNL used so many of the same formulas as first seen in RAMLI. Of course, this was in the late 1970's, when SNL was actually funny.

RAMLI created catch phrases that are still with us today - 'sock it to me' and 'you bet your sweet bippy' - and it featured cast members such as Goldie Hawn, as cute as a button in her early 20's, Arte Johnson, JoAnne Worley, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, and others since made famous by their appearances. It also attracted a wide variety of Guest Stars such as John Wayne, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Richard Nixon. Nixon's appearance on RAMLI has been widely credited with his winning the 1968 Presidential Election (his opponent, Hubert Humphrey, was also invited on but declined).

Wildly popular during its first few seasons, RAMLI went into eventual decline, having become a victim of its own success as later would also SNL. As cast members made their bones, they left the show for greener and more lucrative pastures, with the result at the end of its run there were only four of the original cast left. It was canceled in 1973, with TV Guide's comment that it was 'a tired reminder of the hit of the 60's'. And this is where SNL is today.

YouTube features many segments of RAMLI episodes but no full hour-long shows. It hardly matters, since there was no continuity or plot, but embedded below is one of the 'Best Of' videos. Below are links to some of its most famous segments. So hunker down, get out those tie-dyed clothes, and return to the manic late 1960's if but for a little while.

Richard Nixon

John Wayne

Tiny Tim

John Lennon and Yoko Ono


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Well, I should have researched a little more then, for I hadn't known that Lorne Michaels had been a write for RAMLI, but it makes sense in that SNL was certainly a late-night imitation of RAMLI. John Belushi and Steve Martin would have fit right in with the regular cast. Kudos to the F&W quote, which also eluded me - and I did this mostly from memory.
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Look this up in your Funk and Wagnalls - Saturday Night Live was Laugh-in reincarnated for late night TV. Lorne Michaels, who's responsible for SNL, got his start in TV as a writer for Laugh-in.
And that's the truth – PFFFFT!
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