'Laugh-In's Dick Martin, TV Comedy Pioneer

Dick Martin, co-host of Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, a TV comedy staple of the 1960s, died Saturday. Zany, frenetic, and daring in its references to sex and drugs, Laugh-In challenged the more tame TV sitcoms of the era with a fast-paced sketches, monologues and catch phrases, like "sock it to me."

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Our last word in business is "Laugh-In."

The 1960s television program changed the business of television comedy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "LAUGH-IN")

DICK MARTIN: Sock it to me. Sock it to me.

Sock it to me became a national catch-phrase thanks to Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In." Over the weekend, Dick Martin died at a hospital in Santa Monica. He was 86. But he left behind plenty of episodes.

Zany, frenetic and daring its references to sex and drugs, "Laugh-In" challenged the more tame TV sit-coms of the era with fast-paced sketches, monologues and set pieces. Think "Saturday Night Live" set in the 1960s and broadcast in prime time, filmed on a psychedelic set with a penchant for sight gags, go-go dancers and physical comedy.

"Laugh-In" helped to launch the careers of Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Tiny Tim.

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(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAUGH-IN")

TINY TIM: (Singing) Oh, tiptoe through the window, by the window that is where I'll be.

One of its early writers - Lorne Michaels- went on to create "Saturday Night Live."

The next time you see a politician trying to win points on a late night comedy show you can say Richard Nixon tried that first on "Laugh-In."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAUGH-IN")

RICHARD NIXON: Sock it to me.

MONTAGNE: Whoa. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

ROBERT SMITH, Host:

And I'm Robert Smith.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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