Friday, June 02, 2000

R&M LAUGH IN: Catch Phrases

Memorable cast members/guests and their running gags

Arte Johnson portrayed a number of recurring characters, including:
Wolfgang the German soldier - Wolfgang would comment on the previous gag by saying "Verrry interesting", sometimes with comments such as "...but shtupid!" He eventually would close each show by talking to Lucille Ball as well as the cast of Gunsmoke — both airing opposite Laugh-In on CBS; as well as whatever was on ABC. Johnson would later repeat the line while playing Nazi-themed supervillain Virman Vundabar on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.
Tyrone F. Horneigh (pronounced "hor-NIGH," presumably to satisfy the censors) - A dirty old man coming on to Gladys Ormphby (Ruth Buzzi) seated on a park bench, who almost invariably clobbered him with her purse. Sample exchange:
Tyrone: Do you believe in the hereafter?
Gladys: Of course I do!
Tyrone: Good. Then you know what I'm here after!
(Both the Tyrone and Gladys characters went into animated form in the "Nitwits" segments of the 1977 animated television show "Baggy Pants and the Nitwits")
Piotr Rosmenko, the Eastern European Man - Piotr stood stiffly and nervously in an ill-fitting suit while commenting on differences between America and "the old country," such as "Here in America, is very good, everyone watch television. In old country, television watches you!" This predated a similar schtick by Yakov Smirnoff. Occasionally guest star Sammy Davis, Jr. teamed with Johnson as "The Rosmenko Twins."
Rabbi Shankar (a pun on Ravi Shankar), an Indian guru - Dressed in a Nehru jacket dispensing pseudo-mystical Eastern wisdom laden with bad puns. He held up two fingers in a peace sign whenever he spoke.
An unnamed man in a yellow raincoat and hat, riding a tricycle. The image of him pedaling, then tipping over and falling, was frequently used between sketches. (Judy Carne was once reported to have said that every member of the cast took turns riding the tricycle at one time or another.)
Announcer Gary Owens standing in an old-time radio studio with his hand cupped over his ear, making announcements, often with little relation to the rest of the show, such as (in an overly-dramatic voice), "Earlier that evening..."
Ruth Buzzi in many roles, including:
Gladys Ormphby - A drab, though relatively young spinster who was the eternal target of Arte Johnson's Tyrone; when Johnson left the series, Gladys retreated into recurring daydreams, often involving marriages to historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and Benjamin Franklin (both played by Alan Sues).
Doris Swizzle - A seedy barfly paired with her husband, Leonard Swizzle, played by Dick Martin.
Busy Buzzi - A Hedda Hopper/Louella Parsons-style gossip columnist.
Henry Gibson as:
The Poet - The Poet would hold an oversized flower and read offbeat poems. He pronounced his name "Henrik Ibsen".
The Parson - A character who made ecclesiastical quips and, in 1970, officiated at a near-marriage for Tyrone and Gladys.

Lily Tomlin in a Laugh-In publicity photo.
Lily Tomlin as:
Ernestine/Miss Tomlin - The obnoxious telephone operator with no concern for her customers ("'Fair'? Sir, we don't have to be fair. We're the phone company.").
Edith Ann - A child who frequently said, "And that's the truth", followed by "Pbbbt!" . Tomlin performed her skits in an oversized rocking chair that made her appear small.
"Tasteful" society matron Mrs. Earbore. Mrs. Earbore would express quiet disapproval about a tasteless joke or remark, and then rise from her chair with her legs spread, and sometimes got doused with a bucket of water.
Lily Tomlin later performed Ernestine for Saturday Night Live, and Edith Ann on children's shows such as Sesame Street.
Judy Carne in two robotic speech and movement roles:
Mrs. Robot in "Robot Theater" -- The female companion to Arte Johnson's "Mr. Robot", both equally inept
The talking Judy Doll, usually played with Arte Johnson who never heeded her warning: "Touch my little body, and I hit!"
Henny Youngman telling one-liner jokes for no reason. Often, corny one-liners would be followed by the line, "Oh, that Henny Youngman!"
Alan Sues as Big Al - A clueless and fey sports anchor who loved ringing his bell, which he called his "tinkle", and as hungover children's show host "Uncle Al, The Kiddies' Pal"
Goldie Hawn was the giggling dumb blonde stumbling over her lines, especially when she introduced Dan's "News of the Future".
Jo Anne Worley sometimes sang off-the-wall songs using her loud operatic voice, but is better remembered for her mock outrage at "chicken jokes." Many times, during the Cocktail Parties, she talked about her boyfriend Boris (a married man).
Barbara Sharma as the dancing meter-maid who ticketed anything from trees to baby carriages, and often praised vice president Spiro Agnew, calling him 'Pres-ee-dent Agnew.'
Flip Wilson, whose character, the cross-dressing Geraldine, originated the phrase "What you see is what you get". Another catchphrase was "The devil made me do it". Wilson and his alter ego had their own variety show in the early '70s.
Dan Rowan as General Bull Right - A far-right-wing representative of the military establishment and outlet for political humor.
Richard Dawson as Hawkins the Butler - Would always start his piece by asking "Permission to...?" and proceed to fall over.
The Judge. Originally portrayed by British comic Roddy Maude-Roxby as a stuffy magistrate with black robe and powdered wig. Each "Judge" sketch would feature an unfortunate defendant brought before the court. Guest star Flip Wilson introduced the sketch with "Here come de judge!," the venerable catchphrase of black nightclub comedian Pigmeat Markham. Markham was surprised that his trademark had been appropriated, and he petitioned producer George Schlatter to let him play The Judge himself. Schlatter complied and Markham sat atop the bench for one season. The sketches were briefly retired until another guest star, Sammy Davis, Jr., donned the judicial robe and wig. Davis immediately made The Judge his own, using a drawling dialect reminiscent of "Kingfish" Tim Moore, and enthusiastically playing every courtroom scene broadly. Davis even introduced his own sketches, strutting across a bare stage in Judge regalia and chanting in couplets ("If your lawyer's sleepin', better give him a nudge! Everybody look alive, 'cause here come de judge! Here come de judge! Here come de judge!").
"Verrry Eeen-ter-es-ting!" (said by Arte Johnson as Nazi soldier Wolfgang spying from behind a potted plant)
A six-note pattern preceding a code-word or punchline to an off-color joke, such as "do-doo-doo-da-do-doo ... smack!" or "... family jewels!" (sometimes extended to 18 notes by repeating the GGGDEC pattern two more times before the code-word). This same musical phrase had been used as a "signature" at the end of many pieces played by Spike Jones and his City Slickers.
"I didn't know that." (Dick Martin's occasional response to what happened on an episode)
"Easy for you to say!' (Dan Rowan's reply whenever Dick Martin tripped on his tongue during a joke)
"Ohhh, I'll drink to that." (Martin's response to something Rowan said that he liked.)
"I was wondering if you'd mind if I said something my aunt once said to me." A phrase that Dick Martin would always say to interrupt Dan Rowan's announcements on what would happen during their next show; this phrase was followed by a story about a bizarre situation that his aunt went through.
"Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls!"
"Go to your room."
"Uncle Al had to take a lot of medicine last night" (line by Uncle Al, the Kiddies' Pal, played by Alan Sues)
"You bet your sweet bippy!"
"Here come de' judge!" (reprising comedian Pigmeat Markham and further popularized by guest stars Flip Wilson and especially Sammy Davis Jr.)
"'Ello, 'ello! NBC, beautiful downtown Burbank" (the response to calls received by a switchboard operator played by Judy Carne). When the series was syndicated in 1983, the NBC logo and the network's name were edited out.
"And that's the truth." (Edith Ann, summarizing whatever she just said, and capping it with a juicy razzberry)
"One ringy-dingy...two ringy-dingies..." (Ernestine's mimicking of the rings while she was waiting for someone to pick up the receiver on the other end of the telephone lines)
"A gracious good afternoon. This is Miss Tomlin of the telephone company. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?" Ernestine's greeting to people whom she would call
"I just wanna swing!" Gladys Ormphby's catchphrase
"Is that a chicken joke?" Jo Anne Worley's outraged cry, a takeoff on Polish jokes
"Here comes the big finish, folk!" (usually before the last of a series of a star's bad puns)
"Sock it to me!" experienced its greatest exposure on Laugh-In although the phrase had been featured in songs like Aretha Franklin's 1967 "Respect" and Mitch Ryder's 1966 "Sock It To Me, Baby!"
"Oh, that Henny Youngman"
"Marshall McLuhan...what're you doin'?" (Henry Gibson)
"I don't know. I've never been out with one!" (First introduced by guest star Marcel Marceau, this catch-all punchline would be uttered by any guest star. Goldie: "Are you of the opposite sex?"
Tiny Tim: "I don't know, Miss Goldie, I've never been out with one.")
"Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere."
"Now, that's a no-no!"
"Tune in next week when Henny Youngman's wife burns Jell-o!"
"If [so-and-so] married [what's-his-name], divorced him and married {etc.}" The purpose being to try to set up a tongue-twister, involving the last names of celebrities. Example: "If Rosemary Clooney married Regis Toomey. divorced him and married Mickey Rooney, divorced him and married Paul Muni, divorced him and re-married Regis Toomey, she'd be Rosemary Clooney Toomey Rooney Muni Toomey!"
"Morgul the Friendly Drelb" (a pink Abominable Snowman-like character that appeared in the first episode and bombed so badly that his name was used in various announcements by Gary Owens for the rest of the series (usually at the end of the opening cast list, right after Owens himself: "Yours truly, Gary Owens, and Morgul as the Friendly Drelb!") and credited as the author of a paperback collection of the show's sketches)
"That's the most beautiful thing I ever heard."
"Ring my chimes!"
"Want a Walnetto?", was a pick-up line Tyrone would try on Gladys, which always resulted in a purse drubbing.