In September of 1967, NBC ran a special program that proved to be such a success that it was brought back as a series the following year, replacing "The Man From Uncle" on Monday nights at 8pm. It quickly became the most popular television show in the United States.
The show was characterized by a rapid-fire series of gags and sketches, many of which were politically charged or contained sexual innuendo. The co-hosts
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, continued the exasperated straight man and "dumb guy" act which they had established as nightclub comics. The show featured many guest stars like Sammy Davis Jr, Cher, Tiny Tim, Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and many others. Sometimes, the guest had a prominent spot in the program, at other times the guest would pop in for short "quickies" (one or two line jokes) interspersed throughout the show as was done most famously by Richard Nixon when running for president.
Laugh In was to the 1960's what Your Show of Shows was to the 50's, Saturday Night Live was to the 70's and in Living Color was to the 90's. It was a breeding ground for some of the finest comic talent of the last half century. The catchphrases, the schtick and, most of all, the joke wall, were all vital parts of this show. Laugh In served as a launching pad for many of its cast members including Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson and Ruth Buzzi.
Regular segments included "Mod Mod World" which consisted of brief sketches on a theme interspersed with film footage of female cast members go-go dancing in bikinis with punchy phrases and clever wordplay painted on their bodies, "The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award", "Here Comes The Judge", and "Laugh In Looks At The News" which included "News of the Past" and "News of the Future". The latter of these segments, on at least two occasions, correctly predicting future events. One being that Ronald Reagan would become president and the other that the Berlin Wall would come down in 1989.
In addition to making phrases like "Sock It To Me" and "You Bet Your Bippy" famous,
Laugh In inspired such shows as Monty Python's Flying Circus and Sesame Street.
At the end of every show, Rowan turned to his co-host and said, "Say good night, Dick", to which Martin replied, "Good night, Dick!". The show then featured cast members' opening panels on the psychedelic painted "joke wall" and telling short jokes, After which, the show would continue with one final batch of skits, before drawing to a close. After the applause died, executive producer George Schlatter's solitary clapping continued even as the screen turned blank.