Thursday, January 18, 2007

 

Obscurity of the Day: Laugh-In


For those of you too young to remember, Laugh-In was a phenomenally popular comedy television show that ran from 1967 to 1973. It was sort of a mod version of vaudeville, featuring fast-paced jokes and sketches, lots of double entendres and babes in bikinis. Among the regulars were Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, and the hosts, Dick Martin and Dan Rowan. The show was so popular that they even got president Richard Nixon to make a guest appearance, uttering one of the show's many catch-phrases, "Sock it to me." You can read more about the show here or here. Here's a link to video clips from the show.

The show was an instant success and became appointment viewing for most of the country. Naturally success breeds merchandising, and one of those was a comic strip that attempted to emulate the feeling of the show. The strip started on September 23 1968, presumably timed to coincide with the premier of the second TV season.

Roy Doty was at the helm of the strip, and his cartooning style was a perfect vehicle to get across the modern breezy style of the show. The problem came in the writing. Laugh-In was a show that revelled in groaningly bad jokes, funny because of the way the cast members delivered the gags. If you were to read a script for a Laugh-In show you wouldn't crack a smile, but once the great cast got hold of the material it turned to gold on the air. Without that great cast delivering the material, the comic strip was doomed. Doty was further hobbled by apparently being instructed to not use the cast of the show as his models (I guess in case they left the show or expected payment for their appearances on the comics page). That made his job even harder -- if he got to use caricatures of the cast members the reader could supply the proper voice to get across the gags better.

Such was the popularity of the TV show that the strip was given a berth in a ton of papers. Newspaper editors having a high coefficient of friction, it actually took a long time for them to recognize the strip as a loser and give it the heave-ho. It lasted until sometime in 1972 (anyone know the exact date?), just one year less than the TV show itself.

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Comments:
Allan,
No one has mentioned your recently implemented Stripper's Guide Scan tag, thought I might.
I have nothing against it, but would like to compliment you on the unobtrusive way you have put it on the strips.
It has actually become kind of a game to find the insert - the game gets really tough when you forget to add it.
 
Hi DD -
Yeah, caught a site using the images without acknowledging me, so decided it was time to start taking credit on them (for better or worse!).

I suppose the smart thing to do would be to slap a big ugly logo right on the art so it can't easily be edited out, but I just couldn't bear to deface the material to that extent. Just an ol' softy, that's me. I'm glad to know that I'm succeeeding at being as unobtrusive as possible. Maybe I'll get good enough at hiding them that it'll be like finding "Nina"s !

This is a new policy, and you're right that I've been forgetting to 'tag' some of the scans.

... or have I...

Best, Allan
 
Hey Allan,

Do you know anything about "Menomonee Falls Guardian"? It was apparently a "newspaper" that reprinted syndicated comics (from then recent strips such as "Eek & Meek" and "Beetle Bailey" to classics like "Krazy Kat"). Each issue is about 16 pages long.

I ended up buying 11 of them, soley because they reprinted "Conchy" and "Sally Bananas."
 
Sure, I have the whole run. Can't tell you how many issues there were because I'm on the road right now. Seems to me it was around 40 or 50, but I could be way off.

They come up on eBay regularly. The Guardian was not as popular as the Gazette, which concentrated on story strips, but for my money, since I prefer humor strips, it was great stuff.

--Allan
 
Roy Doty is one of my favorite "obscure" cartoonists. I put it in quotes because he worked a lot and his distinctive art turned up in many, many venues ("Silent Workshop" was a regular two-page spread Doty had in POPULAR MECHANICS that showed do-it-yourselfers how to make a variety of home repairs and projects, all without a word of dialog or narration). However, he never had a signature character or series he was associated with so even though the reading public was familiar with his work, he was never "that _____ guy" in their minds.
 
That's "Wordless Workshop", and these days it appears in Family Handyman magazine.
 
Topps also did a Laugh-in trading card set. My best gag for that series was a card with a drawing of a telephone book. The card had two die-cut holes near the bottom -- so you could "let your fingers do the walking." Another card was a caricature of Jo Anne Worley with a hole in her mouth so a finger could simulate her tongue. Ditto an elephant cartoon with hole for trunk.
 
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