Monday, May 26, 2008

Laugh-In Comic Dick Martin Dies At 86

Dick Martin (right) co-hosted Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In with Dan Rowan (left) from 1968-1973

Battle Creek, Michigan-born Dick Martin, the wacky half of the comedy team whose "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" dominated TV in the late 60s and early 70s, died Saturday of respiratory failure at the age of 86. Martin, who suffered from respiratory problems for years, had pretty much stopped breathing the last week of his life, according to a family spokesman.

Shortly after meeting in 1952, Rowan and Martin teamed up professionally. After years of TV guest appearances and steady work on the nightclub circuit, the duo hit paydirt with "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In". Premiering in January of 1968, the series helped to solidify the comic personas of the duo: the urbane straight man (Rowan) and the zany lech (Martin). An immediate hit, "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" was the #1 show on TV its 2nd and 3rd seasons (1968-1970) and helped launch the careers of Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Joanne Worley, Teresa Graves, and Lily Tomlin just to name a few.

Four years after the series ended in 1973, Rowan and Martin ended their partnership on good terms. However, they did team up one last time as the hosts for NBC's "All American Ultra Quiz" (1981). Rowan, a heavy smoker who also suffered from diabetes, died of lymphatic cancer in 1987 at the age of 65.

Martin became a staple on the game show circuit, serving as a panelist on such series as "Match Game" and "Password Plus". He also did scores of guest appearances on such programs as "The Love Boat" (who didn't), "Coach", "Blossom", "Baywatch", and "Diagnosis Murder" and directed episodes of "Family Ties", "Newhart", and "In the Heat of the Night". Martin's survivors include his wife and two sons.

Below is a 1968 clip from "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In". Along with comedy banter from Rowan and Martin, the clip features some very familiar faces.


Jay said...

When I was a kid there was a local station that showed re-runs of Laugh In on Saturday nights. I know it had to be re-runs because I was way too young to remember watching it when it was originally on. Anyway, the show was a riot! I loved it.

Also, did you see that Syndey Pollack died today?

pjazzypar said...

I just commented on Sidney Pollack and scrolled down some more to see this. I did not know that Martin had passed on. I don't think Rowan and Martin get the credit they deserved for "Laugh In". The show was innovative and funny as hell. The cast was star-studded and everyone of them brought something different to the table. You know these things happen in threes. I wonder who will be next.

Malcolm said...

Jay: When I was really young, I have vague recollections of watching "Laugh-In" towards the end of its run. I was really pleased when it appeared in reruns for the first time in the early 80s. Even though some of the humor was dated, much of it was still enjoyable to me.

Yes, I saw the news about Sydney Pollack shortly before receiving your comments. I didn't even know that he had been diagnosed with cancer last year.

Pjazzy: I think that the main appeal of watching "Laugh-In" these days is to see people like Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin early in their career and to check out the countless celebs who popped up in cameos.

Yes, the death trifecta is a weird phenomenon. I don't know if you heard, but the third celebrity death happened Thursday.

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