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.