The show’s rollicking one-liners and bawdy routines led the way for “Saturday Night Live” and also other cutting-edge television satire


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The comedy present Rowan & Martin"s Laugh-In, certification Dan Rowan and also Dick young name (above), debuted on NBC ~ above January 22, 1968. Moviestore Collection, Alamy picture

We’re life in a golden age of presidential comedy top top television. Presidential candidate Donald Trump held "Saturday Night Live" in November 2015, igniting a firestorm the controversy around the advantage the appearance could give his campaign. Hillary Clinton had appeared on the sketch comedy routine the ahead month, together Bernie Sanders would in February 2016. Impersonations the Trump, Barack Obama, Clinton and others have actually been the mainstay the late-night comedy because that years, not to cite politically-charged monologues native such tv luminaries together Stephen Colbert, john Oliver and also Samantha Bee.

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It may seem regular now, but it hasn’t constantly been this way. Complying with the tumult the the an excellent Depression and also World war II, the august college of the presidency was viewed as too dignified come be based on anything more than the many mild and bipartisan ribbing, especially on that low-brow medium known as television. That all changed in 1968 as soon as Richard Nixon showed up on "Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In."

Fifty years back this month, "Laugh-In" premiered top top NBC, and also it quickly became a phenomenon.

Combining fast-paced one-liners, absurd sketches, non-sequiturs, musical performances and also celebrity appearances, the show paved the method for television sketch comedies, consisting of Saturday Night Live (producer Lorne Michaels was a Laugh-In writer). It likewise launched the careers of numerous actors, particularly women, consisting of Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Ruth Buzzi. It introduced catch phrases prefer “sock it to me,” “verrrry interesting,” and also “look that increase in her Funk & Wagnalls.”


Perhaps the most long-lasting and influential minute in "Laugh-In"’s incredibly successful five-year run, however, was that cameo illustration by presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon in 1968.

It wasn’t really funny by modern-day standards, but Nixon’s stilted delivery of the show’s signature catchphrase “sock it come me” was part of a revolutionary effort to reach out to younger voters, taken versus the advice of Nixon’s project managers.

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A document album in the collection of the Smithsonian"s nationwide Museum the American background features the show"s signature psychedelic design. NMAH

The show’s title, "Laugh-In," referenced the sit-ins and also be-ins that the polite Rights and hippie movements. "Laugh-In"’s creators Dan Rowan and also Dick martin updated the traditional vaudeville show to give it a modern flare. Favor its CBS peer "The Smothers brothers Comedy Hour," "Laugh-In" speak to its politically aware, and socially mindful audience v rapid-fire one-liners.

The memorable collection design, the mainstay that the show, to be a summer of love-styled joke wall painted v brightly-colored psychedelic designs and flowers. Gibbs swung open up doors to supply their quips and one-liners, many of castle barely may be to regulate their laughs. Yet it was the faux news segments and also the comedy sketches entailing bumbling judges and also police officers that through a wink and also a nod challenged traditional forms of authority.


So why go the straight-laced, establishment candidate Nixon appear on this wild, countercultural program? Nixon had famously flubbed his tv personality test in the groundbreaking 1960 Presidential debate, the very first ever transfer on network television. Contrasted to the young, telegenic john F. Kennedy, Nixon, that was recovering indigenous illness and exhausted indigenous a weekend invested campaigning, looked pallid and also sweaty. Eight years later, Nixon, who never ever again participated in a televised debate, was eager to job a much better image top top the small screen.

"Laugh-In" writer Paul Keyes, a fervent Nixon supporter and media adviser, encouraged the candidate to do the short cameo while campaigning in Los Angeles. At first, Keyes suggested Nixon can make a referral to the show’s catchphrase “you bet her sweet bippy,” however the candidate wasn’t having any of it.

According to television chronicler Hal Erickson, Nixon called his advisers that he didn"t recognize what "bippy" meant, and also didn"t want to discover out. They worked out on “sock it come me,” yet producer George Schlatter recalled the it took 6 takes because that Nixon to make it through the phrase without sounding angry or offended. Schlatter mental running the end of the studio with the Nixon cameo footage, fearful the the candidate would change his mental or that his campaign team would shot to avoid him, but television background had been made.

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A lunch box (above: front and back), featuring the stars from Laugh-In, is hosted in the collections of the American history Museum. NMAH

Nixon’s cameo showed up on the season premiere the "Laugh-In"’s 1968-1969 season, 2 months before Election Day. The candidate additionally wisely aired a campaign ad during the episode, spending top dollar for a point out on what to be the number one rated program that season.

For his part, Nixon received the traditional $210 figure fee because that his work, which go straight right into his project coffers. His quick stint as a Laugh-In guest certainly didn’t waver the election for Nixon, but its an increase to his relatability certainly didn’t pains in a tumultuous choice shaped through assassinations, street violence and also protest over the war in Vietnam. Fellow presidential candidates hobtration Humphrey and George Wallace were also offered the possibility to show up on the show, but both declined.

"Laugh-In" reached its zenith of popularity and cultural influence that season, before losing star Goldie Hawn come Hollywood and also feeling much less fresh as rivals like "The Smothers brother Comedy Hour" and also "All in the Family" further pushed the boundaries of political humor. The show slipped from its number one ranking in that 1968-1969 season come 13, climate 22, climate 35 by its final season in 1973. The present had ushered in a brand-new era of modern-day and political humor, yet then couldn’t store pace v the rapidly transforming face of television.


The Smothers Brothers never ever scored a guest appearance by a presidential candidate, yet their much more direct and pointed political satire seemed to better match the mood of the young tv audience through 1969.

On their "Comedy Hour," Tom and Dick Smothers had progressed from gregarious and also milquetoast people singers to vital comedic commentators on topics ranging from the Vietnam War and also the breeze to race issues and also civil rights. An overwhelming the to chat industry’s blacklist for people suspected the communist ties, they invited Pete Seeger ago to television to sing “Waist Deep in The huge Muddy,” a thinly-veiled critique of president Johnson’s Vietnam policy.

Their merciless mocking the the political mechanism with play Paulsen’s satirical presidential campaign was matched only by that is jabs at organized religion with the infamous sermons the comic David Steinberg. However perhaps most brazen the all developed in the 3rd season when producers tried to air a segment through Harry Belafonte performing his protest track “Don’t avoid the Carnival” against a background of clip of police beatings at the 1968 democratic Presidential Convention, however the little was cut before the broadcast.

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Battling the CBS censors and landing us on Nixon’s list of enemies, the Smothers brother didn’t just reference present events; they motivated their audience to take a stand. "The Smothers brothers Comedy Hour" may have actually surpassed "Laugh-In" in contemporary relevance, yet it didn’t last as lengthy on air. Amidst controversy, CBS canceled the display during that is 1969 season.

Today, it’s difficult to imagine a time in i beg your pardon comedy and presidential politics were different spheres, but 1968 marked a turning point in television and also political history. "Laugh-In" writer chris Bearde recalled receiving a call from President-Elect Nixon in the writer’s room 2 weeks after ~ the choice thanking the show’s cast and also crew for helping him gain elected. Though George Schlatter took warmth from friends because that aiding Nixon’s campaign, in current interviews he has recognized the prominence of that minute in tv history. “Now friend can’t have an choice without the candidates going on every present in sight, yet at that point it was revolutionary.”