We developed Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in the 1960s and went on the air with the series in January 1968. That was the “sexy sixties” of the Beatles, the pill, miniskirts and when girls began to get rid of their brassieres. But then, as
now, America desperately needed a comedy panacea or release valve for the tensions
building up through an unwinnable war in Vietnam, an unpopular president in Lyndon
B. Johnson, student unrest that would lead to the Kent State shootings, racial conflict
that prompted the protests of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and their assassinations, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his senator/brother
and presidential candidate, Bobby.
Today, similar problems exist, in my opinion, and one way to help ease tension is
through laughter. When people are laughing they are not throwing punches or bombs.
Tensions in the 1960s were released somewhat through the satirical comedy of
Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer, and Jonathan Winters, for example, and That Was the Week
That Was, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and Laugh-In.
Because no one at NBC understood the format of Laugh-In, we were given more
freedom than any other program. Plus, the show was very cheap to make ($125,000 per
week). And NBC had nothing to put on Monday night opposite CBS’ powerhouse line-up of Lucille Ball and Gunsmoke anyway. So we did pretty much what we wanted.
But that meant the first commitment to us was for only 14 weeks, a half-season, to
allow the network to find the replacement. So we were in fact cancelled before we ever
went on the air. Therefore, the success of Laugh-In was a total surprise.
Look That Up in
Your Funk and Wagnalls!
By George Schlatter
Jo Anne Worley’s
Continued on page 6