Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (Disc 1 of 3) (2003)
In its day, despite all of its presumed appeal to younger viewers, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In also seemed surprisingly old-hat in its sensibilities, goofing on the counter-culture as much as it did on the establishment, which was enough to turn some viewers off. The interview on disc one with Gary Owens is extremely fascinating for what he reveals about the way the show was put together behind the scenes (the show was originally done before a live audience, à la The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, etc.) and the way that the producers worked him into the structure of the show as a "sub"-host after the announcer-less pilot, working the area in between Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and the rest of the cast. In effect, in what Owens did with the announcer, he successfully brought a radio technique to television that had never been used successfully in television comedy. Owens also ranges freely across his own background, which includes work with everyone from Jay Ward and Walt Disney to Criswell. Watching some of the shows themselves, such as when Flip Wilson and Willie Mays (who was becoming ubiquitous on the news during that period, even turning up on Bewitched) appeared together, one sees some eerie and unintentional predictions of the future of television -- the Dick Martin-hosted "Laugh-In News" anticipated the personality-driven "happy news" that would become the norm in local TV news by several years, at least. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide.
Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (Disc 2 of 3) (2003)
On disc 2, the show hits its stride with the perfect cast and a full, still-fresh humor tray to go. Two minutes into the first show on disc two, we get the renowned Richard Nixon cameo from September 1968; arguably the funniest moment in the late president's career, it came about because the show's head writer, Paul Keyes, had been a speechwriter for the then former vice president, who happened to turn up at the NBC building to do commercials for his campaign. But the same show opens with a moment almost as surreal: Arte Johnson in his German uniform saying one thing to a silent but essential Bob Hope. Also present amid the contemporary performers (Jack Lemmon, Barbara Feldon) and the regulars is black comic Pigmeat Markham, whose gig as the judge in the "Here Come De Judge" blackouts was probably the biggest single audience to which he ever played. The interview with Ruth Buzzi is more personal and introspective than a lot of the others in the Laugh-In releases so far. She recalls doing comedy and small shows in New York and making it into the Broadway production of Sweet Charity}, and then jumping to something called The Steve Allen Comedy Hour, which led to a chance encounter with a former agent and an audition for Laugh-In; she also discusses how the Gladys character in Laugh-In grew out of her portrayal of Agnes Gooch in the play Auntie Mame}. By the end of the second disc and the third platter, the show starts to get more provocative and political, and those programs are more satisfying to watch today than the earliest one here (show number three). ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide.
Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (Disc 3 of 3) (2003)
Disc three is highlighted by an interview with Arte Johnson, who probably knew producer/creator George Schlatter longer than almost anyone else involved. Johnson denies any early aspirations to being an actor, preferring at the time to accurately recreate the sounds he heard in various accents and the characters that he created, which became his specialty; he reveals that Tyrone, the dirty old man who pursued Ruth Buzzi's Gladys, was a combination of Edgar Buchanan's voice and the persona of a retired policeman he knew in Chicago. Johnson has the most detailed memory of the actual production and the sketches from nearly 40 years ago. (He recalls that the commuter trains in Chicago had to alter their schedules to accommodate people who stayed downtown to watch Laugh-In in bars.) He was closest to Henry Gibson (and the two were often mistaken for each other) and, among the guest stars, Sammy Davis Jr., whom he describes in very moving personal terms. Johnson's segment by itself is almost worth the price of the set for what he says about the show and about performing and the people with whom he worked. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide.
Disc One contains episodes 3 & 9.
- Interview with Gary Owens