Dick Martin broke rules of TV comedy

LOS ANGELES — Dick Martin, the off-the-wall half of the comedy team whose “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” took television by storm in the 1960s, making stars of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin and creating such national catch-phrases as “Sock it to me!” has died. He was 86.

Martin, who went on to become one of television’s busiest directors after splitting with Dan Rowan in the late 1970s, died Saturday night of respiratory complications at a hospital in Santa Monica, family spokesman Barry Greenberg said.

Martin had lost the use of one of his lungs as a teenager, and needed supplemental oxygen for most of the day in his later years.

He was surrounded by family and friends when he died just after 6 p.m., Greenberg said.

“Laugh-in,” which debuted in January 1968, was unlike any comedy-variety show before it. Rather than relying on a series of tightly scripted song-and-dance segments, it offered a steady, almost stream-of-consciousness run of non-sequitur jokes, political satire and madhouse antics from a cast of talented young actors and comedians that also included Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and announcer Gary Owens.

Presiding over it all were Rowan and Martin, the veteran nightclub comics whose standup banter put their own distinct spin on the show.

“Laugh-In” astounded audiences and critics alike. For two years the show topped the Nielsen ratings, and its catchphrases— “Sock it to me,” “You bet your sweet bippy” and “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s” — were recited across the country.

Rowan and Martin landed the show just as their comedy partnership was approaching its zenith and the nation’s counterculture was expanding into the mainstream.

The two were both struggling actors when they met in 1952. Although their early gigs in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley were often performed gratis, they donned tuxedos for them and put on an air of success.

“We were raw,” Martin recalled years later, “but we looked good together and we were funny.”

They gradually worked up to the top night spots in New York, Miami and Las Vegas and began to appear regularly on television.

In 1966, they provided the summer replacement for “The Dean Martin Show.” Within two years, they were headlining their own show.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Everett man dies after being hit by car in Island County

Jacob Weigert was running across State Route 20 toward a bus stop when he was hit Wednesday morning.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood police shoot at man during pursuit

The man is wanted on multiple warrants, including one for attempted murder, according to police. No one was hurt.

The “Village of Hope,” a tiny home community including 17 shelters, is set to open on Mission Hill Road in Tulalip in September. (Tulalip Tribes)
Tulalip Tribes to open tiny home village with 17 shelters

It’s called the Village of Hope. Monthly culture nights will feature classes in Lushootseed and “Tulalip cooking.”

Everett
Man shot at Everett apartment

The man in his 30s was shot Sunday night. No arrests had been made.

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)
This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Red-hot housing market cools, a bit, in Snohomish County

The amount of housing inventory is rising. Demand is slowing. Higher mortgage rates are a cause.

John McKeon stands in front of a mobile headquarters vehicle while discussing the funding needs of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the search and rescue headquarters in Snohomish, Washington. McKeon said a priority for the group is to find money for new covered parking for a number of vehicles that do not have a garage to be parked in. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue wants rescuing

They’re asking for nearly $1 million in federal recovery dollars, but funding has been hard to come by.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How to answer Snohomish County’s basic crime questions? ‘Transparent data’

An initiative funded in part by Microsoft could reveal racial disparities, while creating an “apples to apples” database.

Most Read