8 sock-it-to-you facts about 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In'

The comedy show spawned spin-offs, muscle cars, ice cream and magazines.

Image: The Everett Collection

Goldie Hawn go-go dancing in a string bikini. Lily Tomlin swinging her legs on an oversized rocking chair. Arte Johnson as Wolfgang the German soldier proclaiming, "Verrry interesting!" Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was more than a pioneering sketch comedy series — it was a pop-culture phenomenon.

Long before Saturday Night Live and internet memes came along, this top-rated show fed a new generation's conversations with hip catchphrases and characters. Boomers everywhere were spouting Laugh-In lines like "Sock it to me," "You bet your sweet bippy!" and "Here come de judge!" A young Lorne Michaels was a writer on the show, and he would adopt many of the idea for his SNL a decade later.

Laugh-In ran for six seasons, from 1968–73, featuring cast members like Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley, Richard Dawson, Alan Sues and many, many more. Heck, head writer Paul W. Keyes, pictured above between Hawn and Buzzi, is credited for helping Richard Nixon get elected, thanks to V.P.'s comical cameo appearance.

Point is, Laugh-In was HUGE. Just take a look at these eight tie-ins and spin-offs. Few series in history have caused quite a sensation.

1. Topps made some unique trading cards for the show.


The Topps trading card company was no stranger to television tie-ins. However, the designers came up with some clever interactive collectibles in this case. Some cards emulated the psychedelic joke wall of the show, with little doors you could pop open like an advent calendar for punchlines. Other cards had holes punched in them, so you could stick your fingers through to mimic Jo Anne's tongue or Goldie's legs.

Image: wrappermax / eBay

2. Pontiac sold a special GTO inspired by a catchphrase.


Flip Wilson — and, later, Sammy Davis, Jr. — popularized the "Here come de judge" catchphrase, which was originated by cult black comic Pigmeat Markham. The saying become so ubiquitous that GM launched "The Judge" Pontiac GTO in 1969. The promotions used phrases like "All rise for the Judge" and "The Judge can be bought." The muscle car package, which cost an extra $337.02 and slapped a funky logo on the front end, was offered for a few years.

Image: Mark Hess

3. There was a daytime spin-off series.


On Letters to Laugh-In, host Gary Owens opened fan-submitted jokes, which were rated by a celebrity panel on a scale of 0 to 100. The 4PM series replaced Match Game but struggled against Dark Shadows with the after-school set. It ran for a mere three months.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. It inspired a Baskin-Robbins flavor.


The Judge inspired more than classic American automobiles! The chain's chewy, chocolaty, tongue-in-cheek Here Comes the Fudge was a forerunner of the pop-culture-referencing frozen treats of Ben & Jerry's. B-R produced the flavor for decades.

Image: legal-planet.org

5. There was a daily comic strip.


Rory Doty illustrated the newspaper strip, which ran from 1969–72. He later illustrated covers for Judy Blume novels like Superfudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Image: strippersguide

6. They published a magazine, too.


There was more printed material for Laugh-In fans to take to the loo. This issue from February 1969, with Wolfgang on the cover, predicted "Raquel Welch Will Climb Mt. Everest Entirely Naked" and "Truman Capote Will Replace J. Edgar Hoover" in the new year. The year 1969 was wild, but not that wild.

Image: joetrip

7. They produced a training film for Sears called 'Freeze-In.'


In 1969, Sears produced a 15-minute short educational film titled Freeze-In, starring series regulars Arte Johnson and Judy Carne. The instructional clip was made to teach salesmen about the new Kenmore freezers. Bikini-clad Carne opened the affair while dancing with "Sears Roebuck and Co." tattooed on her back.

Image: Sears / YouTube

8. Robin Williams starred in a 1977 reboot.


In 1977, after the success of Saturday Night Live, NBC looked to revive Laugh-In. The flop comeback was most notable for featuring a relatively unknown Robin Williams, who would blow up overnight as Mork in 1978. In the summer of 1979, the network rode Williams' fame by airing reruns. "Sell my clothes, I'm going to heaven!" William proclaimed. Rowan and Martin had no involvement in the series. Which naturally led to a lawsuit.

Image: The Everett Collection

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RedSamRackham 43 months ago
* By 1977 shows such as SNL and Monty Python made Laugh In an obsolete relic of a past decade so the re-boot with Robin Williams in cast was indeed doomed. ♣
VaughnBaskin 43 months ago
And Laugh-In set the tones for Saturday Night Live, Second City Television, You Can't Do That On Television!, Hot Hero Sandwich, Fridays, In Living Color, RoundHouse, Mad TV, and of course All That!
RedSamRackham VaughnBaskin 43 months ago
* Laugh-In quickie black outs were inspired by Ernie Kovacs' shows of 1950's/early 1960's. That man was a genius using TV Medium technology of his era! ☺
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