Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In

Jumping on the Laugh Wagon

CBS hoped to appeal to the rural sector by presenting Hee Haw, which tossed in country music stars amid mostly cornball jokes, while trying shamelessly to emulate Laugh-In gusto and loose style (i.e., the joke wall equivalent was a cornfield). ABC’s What’s It All About World dispensed with a lot of the hip savvy that Laugh-In excelled at by presenting its cornucopia of sketches and jokes with what many reviewers perceived to be a safer, more middle-of-the-road approach.

eorge Schlatter tried to top himself technologically with a half-hour Laugh-In clone called Turn On, which whizzed by at twice the speed, leaned heavily on the suggestive, and proved to be downright headache-inducing in its efforts to come off as mod and original. It became one of the most famous one-episode disasters in the history of the medium. Undeterred, Schlatter tried other ways to milk his cash cow. As far as he was concerned, Laugh-In was simply too big even for prime time, and in September of 1969 he premiered a daytime spin-off called Letters to Laugh-In, which, believe it or not, took actual letters sent to the show by fans and had a celebrity panel (mostly consisting of the Laugh-In regulars) read them so that they could be rated on a scale of zero to one hundred, therefore making it a game show of sorts. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In announcer, Gary Owens, was its host and this fairly feeble premise was gone by Christmas of that year, its demise perhaps hastened by the fact that the winning prize was a free trip to “beautiful downtown Burbank.”

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Photo credits—George Schlatter Productions; NBC/Photofest