Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Laugh-In. Sit-In. Bed-In. Be-In.

The first thing you noticed about Laugh-In (1968 - 1973) were the colors, unknown to network television until then. (Color TVs had been around for a few years, but no one maxed the possibilities).The swirling paisley, the gliding stripes, the undulating tie-dyes. Suddenly, ‘Gunsmoke’ made no sense. 'Bewitched' played in a Victorian drawing-room.

Alan Sues, the kiddies' pal
Then you had the attention-deficit-disorder-Jean-Luc-Godard jump cuts. Nothing lasted more than a laugh. No point. On to the next skit. Sock it to me baby…

It was a non-stop party somewhere in Malibu, maybe, after dinner-by-the sea and white sand, where real groovin’ hippies commingled ‘round a roaring fire with anachronistic swingers like Peter Lawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Goldie's bikini
It was never supposed to work so well. Laugh-In began as a one-time special — then skipped down the streets of Burbank like an day-glo clown, snatching Emmy awards and championing Hollywood careers.

No single TV show nailed the west coast pre-Manson 60s zeitgeist quite like Laugh-In… Interracial couples, thinly disguised drug references, micro-mini skirts, left-wing politics, anti-establishment…

Through it all you had two tuxedoed lounge-lizards, Rowan and Martin, a smart guy/dumb guy Vegas routine, vaudeville zapped by hellzapoppin’. Incongruent enough to be cool … One of its young writers took thick notes, underlined ‘Controlled Anarchy’, jumped a Greyhound, and headed east.

Very interesting..
It was hugely influential with pithy slogans that go-go danced their way into the slinky lingua franca. It opened doors on a wild house party that was just tame enough that squares felt hip, and just square enough that the hip could condescend.

Vietnam. Drugs. The draft. Kent State. Racial inequality. Joplin/Hendrix/Morrison. Assasinations. The protests… Pigs off campus… What’s so funny?

Out of misery is born magic.

A poem by Henry Gibson
No surprise the show ended along with the Sixties — that is, pre-Watergate. No place for bikini-clad jokesters — too vulnerable, too kooky… A more serious society required less serious comedy.

But then, one evening, unnoticed and without fanfare, a ghost-driven black cadillac began a dusty path across the country, from Burbank to the Big Apple, with crates of restless souls in the trunk, moaning for prime time, about to go Live from New York.