Still Funny After 50 Years? You Bet Your Sweet Bippy!

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Laugh In Complete Series Review

Editor's Note: TIME-LIFE is releasing LAUGH IN: The Complete Series on DVD. This review is for the unreleased version of Season One only.

Say lines like “Sock it to me,” “You bet your sweet bippy,” “Here come da’ judge,” “One ringy dingy,” “Veeeery interesting,” or “And that the truth” to someone over 50, and you’re likely to garner a smile and a laugh from them as you see them look back into their minds remembering where they heard those lines.

Rowan and Martin’s LAUGH IN began in 1968 and ran for six seasons through some of the most turbulent years in our country’s history. It was both groundbreaking and, by today’s standards, rule-breaking--and that is why it is still so much fun to watch today as it was almost 50 years ago.

The 4 DVD set in review here from Time Life--Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In: The Complete First Season--captures the first season complete in all its glory.

While care was taken to restore the video as well as possible, the set does present a disclaimer that due to the age of the tapes some portions may show their age, and there are some blank spots where we see the set and hear music, but there are no words because that’s when the local stations announced their sponsors via voice-over. None of that diminishes the enjoyment of the contents.

Since re-runs are not often seen of this series, it’s easy to forget how many iconic TV characters and skits came from this show. Tyrone and Gladys, Edith Ann, Ernestine, and the Farkle family (to name a few) by Hall of Fame comedians and actors such as regulars Arte Johnson, Alan Sues, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Judy Carne, Goldie Hawn, JoAnne Worley--and a who’s who of guest stars and even politicians from the day that included Barbara Feldon, Don Rickles, Tim Conway, Carol Burnett, Cher, Flip Wilson, Hugh Hefner, Johnny Carson, Sally Field, Sheldon Leonard (yes the guy Sheldon and Leonard are named after on THE BIG BANG THEORY) and Sammy Davis Junior. My favorite of all was the first TV performances of Tiny Tim. Watching him play and seeing Dick Martin’s reaction to him was priceless. Many may not know or remember how funny Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were together--truly one of the great comedy duos of all time!

There are so many more skits packed into this first season that it would be almost impossible to name them all without leaving out other worthy skits. There are so many, like the Farkle Family that included the twins Simon and Gar…Farkle; Henry Gibson’s poems; Arte Johnson’s German Soldier peering out from the bushes saying “veeeery interesting, but stupid,” and Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann (costumed in a kid’s dress in an oversized chair giving her take on things) and the equally iconic Ernestine the switchboard operator. (And I bet your saying to yourself right now, “What about so and so doing…?” See what I mean?)

There is a lot of humor directed towards the Vietnam War which was going full bore at the time, something that I bet would not happen today. They would also do a weekly news spot of past, present and 20 years in the future new—with one segment about Ronald Reagan as President who actually was still in office20 years in the future in 1988! And who could forget Richard Nixon doing a surprise spot saying “Sock it to me?”

So much fun and so politically incorrect--and so sexy too! Let me tell you, seeing a young Goldie Hawn, Chelsea Brown and Judy Carne in bikinis, go-go dancing with various sayings painted all over their bodies, has not lost its appeal one iota.

The one-liners and quick skits reminded me of Benny Hill, and I can’t help but think he must have gotten a lot of that style and humor from this very show. I don’t know that for a fact, but it sure seems it.

This DVD set has extras that include the original pilot and the 25th Anniversary Reunion (important to note that at the time of that taping, Dan Rowan had already passed away) where that cast members take Q&A from the audience. There is even a 40 minute segment with Executive Producer George Schlatter, who gives insights into how the show got its start and look. There is also a 32-page booklet with tidbits about many of the regulars and guest stars, including the announcer to end all announcers, Gary Owens.

Now, almost 50 years later, many of the cast have passed on: Dick Martin, Alan Sues, Chelsea Brown, Judy Carne. But there are others that are still hanging in there. JoAnne Worley and Arte Johnson, for instance, are in their late 70s and 80s, and Goldie Hawn is in her early 70’s now. It is important that we remember those still with us and those who have passed, and all the fun and humor they brought us that in many ways enable us to see TV the way we do today.

LAUGH IN should be required watching for anyone interested in classic TV comedy--and most importantly for anyone who just wants to laugh. Dated? Yes, but timeless nonetheless. Sock it to me!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0