Sunday, May 25, 2008
R.I.P.: Dick Martin (1922-2008)
Dick Martin was the blissfully self-assured doofus to Dan Rowan's bemusedly incredulous straight man as the dapper duo hosted Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968-73). And if you're old enough to remember phrases like "You bet your sweet bippy!" and "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall's!" -- and, of course, "Sock it to me!" -- you'll remember what a full-blown, 24-karat phenomenon that series was in its heyday. The fast-paced, hour-long comedy revue -- launched on Jan. 22, 1968 by NBC as a midseason replacement for a burnt-out Man from U.N.C.L.E. -- was considered rather risque in its time (a very young Goldie Hawn, clad in a bikini and splattered with graffiti, danced provocatively in many early episodes) and often trafficked in political humor that veered leftward. (Even so, Richard Nixon dropped by for a memorably self-mocking cameo during the 1968 Presidential election.) If I viewed a rerun today, I quite possibly would find it more antiquated than edgy, and not nearly as audacious as a contemporary show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-69). On the other hand: For a variety of reasons, I can't imagine any broadcast TV network daring to air anything like Laugh-In in prime time right now. Yes, not even in an election year. Especially not in an election year.