Did Laugh-In get Tricky Dick elected?

Apparently so! Been reading this lengthy article examining the relationship between Richard Nixon and Laugh-In's head writer, Paul Keyes.

Keyes was responsible for writing Nixon's "sock it to me" bit that many say was key in getting the nation to vote for him in '68: "the impact of that five-second appearance is impossible to gauge: on one of the most popular TV shows in the nation, Nixon managed, in a single sentence, to convey more of a good-sport persona, and a sense of humor, than during most of the rest of his campaign".

The piece — published on WFMU's Beware of the Blog by Kliph Nesteroff — delves deep into the influence of the two most popular late-60s comedy shows (Laugh-In & Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) and how the Nixon presidency affected them.

While both shows captured the sixties zeitgeist, Nesteroff explores how they both actually represented opposite sides of the spectrum. The Smothers' increasingly politically-aware stance — like featuring anti-war guests like Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte — got the show cancelled. (Indeed, Tom Smothers was the first name on Nixon's enemies list). But Laugh-In — despite its "reflection of the late sixties youth sensibility" — avoided anti-war sentiments with "vaudville bits".

The rest of the feature — once again I assure you: a great and lengthy read! — explores Nixon's close relationship with Laugh-In's right-wing head writer Keyes. The relationship began when Nixon appeared on The Jack Parr Show at the time of Nixon's disastrous 1960 presidential run (remember the death of the televised debate?) and eventually culminated into Keyes being involved in Nixon's successful 1968 run.

"Nixon said... that appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected - and I believe that. And I've had to live with that," George Schlatter, creator of Laugh-In.

Views: 42

Tags: 1960s, brothers, comedy, history, laugh-in, nixon, richard, smothers, television, wfmu


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Comment by Rita Vignault on December 1, 2010 at 10:47am
I agree ree, given the nick name (which included the ubiquitous f word) they assigned to him, I do not think Keyes was very highly thought of by his colleagues.
Comment by Rita Vignault on December 1, 2010 at 10:41am
Paulie politicians now do more than comedy shows. Do you remember Stephen Harper doing a Beatles song at an Ottawa charity show? You can really like the guy when you watch this.

Comment by ree on December 1, 2010 at 10:10am
Thanks, Rita & Paulie! What I find most intriguing is how Keyes was single-handedly responsible for inventing the opening monologue that's now the standard in many late-night talk shows.
Comment by paulie S on December 1, 2010 at 9:24am
That truly was an eye opener and now I have a greater understanding of why political figures do popular comedy shows. It really does place you in a more positive light even if you are a buffoon.
Comment by Rita Vignault on November 30, 2010 at 10:49pm
Fascinating reading, thank you ree.


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