Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was a comedy variety series that debuted on NBC in 1968 and ran until 1973. The series, hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, featured a troupe of character comedians, whose ranks changed over the years, and featured oddball topical humor and swinging 60s decor and costuming. In addition to introducing several previously unknown comics who would become stars and placing an emphasis on creating catch phrases (ranging from "Sock it to me" to "Is that a chicken joke?"), the series influenced many subsequent sketch comedy shows, from Saturday Night Live to The Electric Company, and including the Muppets.
As Lewis Bernstein recalled, the series influenced the initial format of Sesame Street, in particular the emphasis on short, fast-moving sketches: "At the time, we were competing with cartoons, so we kept everything very short and varied, like 'Laugh-In,' which was the best show on TV then."
The Muppet Show also showed signs of Laugh-In influence. A Laugh-In mainstay, "the Cocktail Party," in which assorted eccentrics from gurus to poets to parsons gathered at a swinging party to drink and exchange one and two-liners, was reworked to become "At the Dance".
- An early Sesame Street animated insert, "J Commercial," featured the line "Here comes de judge," which was popularized on Laugh-In.
- In Muppets Tonight episode 101, the 60s-style "Muppet Dating Game" sketch features Dr. Bunsen Honeydew making repeated references to his "bippy," one of several nonsense words popularized on Laugh-In.
- In the December 7, 1970 broadcast featuring Phil Silvers, the guest is repeatedly drenched with water after saying the "Sock it to me" catchphrase. At the end, Silvers remarks, "I could've worked Sesame Street like a gentleman."
Several Laugh-In regulars have appeared in Muppet/Henson productions, reprising their roles from that series.
Cast and Regular Guest Performers
- Dennis Allen, regular (1970-1973)
- Johnny Carson, regular guest (1968-1973)
- Richard Dawson, regular (1971-1973)
- Goldie Hawn, regular (1968-1970)
- Gary Owens, regular/announcer
- Flip Wilson, regular guest performer (1968-1970)