Saturday, May 24, 2008

Say "Good night," Dick

Dick Martin, the goofier half of the '60s comedy team Rowan and Martin, has said his last "Good night, Dick."

For those of you too young to remember the Summer of Love, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In broke many of television's most hallowed taboos when it debuted on NBC in January 1968.

Laugh-In was the first primetime network series to leap full-bore into the world of cutting-edge political humor and sexual double entendre, and it did it all with a loosey-goosey formlessness that owed more to the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and psychedelia than any traditional variety or comedy program that preceded it.

At the center of the insanity stood straight man Dan Rowan and his happy-go-lucky foil Dick Martin, standing about looking dapper in their tuxedos, tossing off urbane one-liners while Goldie Hawn gyrated in a bikini.

Those were the days.

After Laugh-In played out the string in the early '70s, Rowan and Martin went their separate ways. Dick Martin showed up frequently as a celebrity panelist on game shows like Hollywood Squares and Match Game — TV programs that capitalized on the new openness in bawdy humor that Laugh-In pioneered.

At the same time, Martin was building a second, less visible but no less creative, career behind the camera as a director. He helmed dozens of episodes of situation comedies, from Newhart to Sledge Hammer! and everything in between.

Early in Laugh-In's run, Rowan and Martin seized their blossoming fame and rushed out a theatrical comedy called The Maltese Bippy (after one of the innumerable catchphrases Laugh-In spawned, "You bet your sweet bippy"). Modeled on the Universal Studios horror-comedies of Abbott and Costello, the film featured Dan and Dick matching half-wits with vampires and werewolves, and chasing busty young women. (Martin eventually caught one — he married former Playboy centerfold Dolly Read.) I remember sitting with friends in the base theater at Iraklion Air Station on the Greek island of Crete one Saturday afternoon, watching the duo cavort.

Fans will recall that at the conclusion of every Laugh-In episode, Rowan (who died of cancer in 1987) would turn to his partner — who, in typical fashion, had usually just spouted some inane commentary — and utter the magic words, "Say 'Good night,' Dick." To which Martin would respond, grinning with daffy glee into the camera, "Good night, Dick."

Good night, Dick.

Labels: , , , ,

2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger DamonO offered these pearls of wisdom...

Here's some useless trivia for you: Dick Martin never appeared on Hollywood Squares. "Squares" host Peter Marshall, prior to his game show years, used to be part of a comedy duo with a guy named Tommy Noonan. He and Noonan were, for a time, good friends with Rowan and Martin. When Noonan became deathly ill and was hospitalized, Rowan never came to visit him, which incensed Marshall.

So years later, when Marshall was on "Squares" and Rowan and Martin were hosting "Laugh-in," all on NBC, Marshall wouldn't have Rowan on the show as a guest -- and although he didn't feel the same about Martin, they never invited him because they felt it would be awkward to have Martin on the show but not Rowan. Marshall talked about this in a book he wrote some years ago.

Ironically enough, they had plenty of cast members from "Laugh-in" on the show. Just not the hosts.

5:47 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Damon: Useless trivia? My friend, that's trivia gold!

Thanks for sharing!

12:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home