Little Bits of History

“Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 30, 2010

Dick Martin holding a Fickle Finger of Fate Award

January 30, 1922: Dick Martin is born near Detroit, Michigan. He was one half of the Rowan & Martin comedy team who hosted a maniacally charged, totally new concept program called Laugh-In that ran from 1968 – 1973. Martin graduated from Michigan State University and began writing for a radio situation comedy. He joined with Dan Rowan and the two became Rowan and Martin in 1952. They toured the country and overseas. They were seen on television, hosting and performing for other shows before being offered their own venue in 1968.

The American sketch comedy show ran for one hour each Monday. They had 140 shows between January 22, 1968 and May 14, 1973. The show began as a one-time special airing on September 9, 1967. The special was so successful, it replaced the four-year-old Man From U.N.C.L.E., a drama in the style of James Bond movies. Laugh-In had Dan Rowan acting as the straight man exasperated by the “dumb” guy, Dick Martin. This was a time honored schtick dating from Burns and Allen routines in Vaudeveille.

Segments on the show included: the beginning “Cocktail Party” where cast and guest stars danced and delivered one- or two-line jokes; “Laugh-In Looks at the News” parodied local news casts, with segments that looked at historical or future news as well; and “The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award, given for dubious governmental achievements or to famous people. They also had a New Talent Time and introduced all to such stars as Tiny Tim and Art Metrano. Arte Johnson’s Wolfgang the German soldier was heard muttering “Verrry interesting” and then adding, “… but shtupid!” He and Ruth Buzzi as Tyrone F. Horneigh and Gladys Ormphby were seated on a park bench, the dirty old man and hairnetted old woman, with Tyrone muttering until Gladys hit him with her purse. Henry Gibson held his flow while he spouted his poems. Lily Tomlin gave us Ernestine the telephone operator and Edith Ann the child in the rocking chair.

This is the place where we met many comedians for the first time: Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Lily Tomlin, and Arte Johnson. Even President-elect Nixon made a guest appearance to say “Sock it to me!” Hubert Humphrey was also invited, but declined the chance. He later stated that it may have cost him the election.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” – Francis Bacon

“After God created the world, He made man and woman. Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He invented humor.” – Bill Kelly

“The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases him again for another chance.” – Peter De Vries

“What do you mean, funny? Funny-peculiar or funny ha-ha?” – Ian Hay a.k.a. John Hay Beith

Also on this day, in 1835 the first Presidential assassination attempt was made.

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