Sock it to me: ‘Laugh-In’ turns 50

The Signal - - OPINION - Danny TYREE Copy­right 2018 Danny Tyree. Danny wel­comes email re­sponses at and vis­its to his Face­book fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly col­umn is dis­trib­uted ex­clu­sively by Ca­gle Car­toons Inc.

Am I ex­cited about the up­com­ing (Jan. 22) 50th an­niver­sary of the ground­break­ing NBC com­e­dy­va­ri­ety se­ries “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”? You bet your sweet bippy! Stars such as Arte John­son, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tom­lin, Judy Carne, Goldie Hawn and Jo Anne Wor­ley made “Laugh-In” Amer­ica’s #1 show for two of its six sea­sons.

Al­though some of the bawdy repartee and ripped-fromthe-head­lines po­lit­i­cal satire (about the Pill, the anti-war move­ment, smog and the drug cul­ture) went over my in­no­cent lit­tle head, the break­neck one-lin­ers and zany sight gags bright­ened my Mon­day nights and made quite an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion.

The show left such an im­pact on my gen­er­a­tion that even a year or two after it went off the air, mem­bers of my class at Con­nelly Junior High School threw to­gether our own ver­sion of “Laugh-In.” I hammed it up play­ing an­nouncer Gary Owens (broad­cast­ing from “beau­ti­ful down­town Bur­bank”), but the un­de­ni­able high­light of the pre­sen­ta­tion was a spoof of Big Wally foam­ing cleanser, with Joel Har­grove burst­ing through a (fake) wall to res­cue a be­lea­guered house­wife with the musthave prop­er­ties of the mir­a­cle prod­uct.

The nick­name “Big Wally” stuck with Joel. I’m glad we have our fond mem­o­ries, be­cause the skit could never be writ­ten quite the same in to­day’s touchy en­vi­ron­ment. Big Wally would sheep­ishly mut­ter some­thing like, “Sorry to in­vade your safe space. I could tell you about this can of stuff, but that would be mansplain­ing. I’ll just non-judg­men­tally ask why you’re stuck in the kitchen in­stead of run­ning a cor­po­ra­tion and be on my way.”

The se­ries is fi­nally out on DVD; but TV re­runs have been spotty over the years, largely be­cause pro­gram­mers think the top­i­cal show doesn’t age well. Iron­i­cally, these are the peo­ple scram­bling for face lifts, sports cars and tro­phy wives.

Be­cause of decades of lim­ited ex­po­sure, once-hip phrases such as “Look that up in your Funk and Wag­nalls,” “Want a wal­netto?,” “Here come da judge,” “Fly­ing Fickle Fin­ger of Fate” and “Ver­rry in­ter­est­ing - but shtupid!” mean noth­ing to most mem­bers of the younger gen­er­a­tion. But then nei­ther do phrases such as “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” “I’m not pay­ing to heat the en­tire out­doors” and “No, you can’t bor­row my credit card to have your spleen pierced.”

To my shame, I usu­ally over­look “Laugh-In” when cit­ing the ma­jor in­flu­ences on my writ­ing; but that early ex­po­sure to cur­rent events and cock­i­ness is cer­tainly en­twined with my cre­ative DNA.

Es­pe­cially when I write “News of the Past” and “News of the Fu­ture” ar­ti­cles.

You know, like “Bos­ton, March 10, 1876: Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell suf­fered se­vere bat­tery acid burns after sum­mon­ing as­sis­tant Mr. Wat­son and then re­al­iz­ing, ‘Oh, crud! I for­got that I slowed down his phone with­out telling him!’”

Or “Wash­ing­ton, Jan­uary 28, 2025: Pres­i­dent Oprah Win­frey en­cour­ages cab­i­net mem­bers Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz to spin off and run their own coun­tries.”

Or even “July 4, 2050: As the psy­che­delic Wall on the Mex­i­can bor­der was fi­nally com­pleted, a holo­graphic 5 1/2-year-old Edith Ann popped out to an­nounce, “The Mex­i­cans paid for it, and that’s the truth - PFFFFT!”

We’ve had “Satur­day Night Live” and “In Liv­ing Color,” but TV has never re­ally repli­cated the rapid-fire in­san­ity of “LaughIn.” For punchy com­men­tary, we’ll have to content our­selves with Face­book memes, short YouTube videos and in­ter­net trolls. Say good night, Dick. “Good night, Dick!”

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