My story of “LAUGH IN”
Last month there was a surprise in my mail box…I received an award from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) for being a writer on one of 101 best written TV series of all time.
“Cheers”, “Mash”, “All in the Family” were amongst the other award winners.
This then was an honor way beyond what I considered to be a small contribution to a massively successful break out show. There were many writers on “LAUGH IN” through the years and all those creative people, friends and otherwise must be feeling the same way I do.
This blog is a short story as to how I came to be considered for this gig.
I was living in Toronto Canada and working for the CBC writing various comedy and variety series. One of which called “Nightcap” was a smash hit late night show which featured quick political black outs and sight gags. I was also writing a big musical variety show which was directed by a clever man called Bob Jarvis. One night my family and I sat down to watch an NBC special called “Laugh In.”
Amazingly as it might seem the very first sight gag in the show was a joke I had devised in Australia for a hit network variety series called REVUE 61.
This was the joke:
COME UP ON ELEVATOR .
A MAN APPROACHES THE ELEVATOR AND PRESSES THE BUTTON. THE DOORS SLIDE OPEN REVEALING A STAIRCASE. THE MAN LOOKS AROUND SHRUGS THEN CLIMBS THE STAIRS.
THE ELEVATOR DOORS CLOSE.
“Wow” I thought…I could work on this show they have the same idea as I had. As I was thinking this, after a couple more sight gags , up came another site gag which also my joke.
Here it is:
COME UP ON MIRROR.
MAN STANDS AT MIRROR LATHERING UP WITH BRUSH AND SHAVING SOAP. HE THEN TAKES AN ELECTRIC RAZOR AND STARTS TO SHAVE.
In today’s world these are pretty lame jokes but in 1967 coming fast and furious they were hot looking.
An astounding thing happened as the comedy special continued, many more of my original sight gags were scattered throughout the show.
Some Canadians who had worked with me in Australia and were now back home in Toronto started calling congratulating me on my first US gig! This was before the credits.!!..
I eagerly waited to see if MCA-REVUE the US partners in the Aussie show had sold my material to the “Laugh In” producers.
That was not the case!
As the credits rolled by there it was: “Creative Consultant Digby Wolfe.” He was the British host of “REVUE 61” the show I wrote for the 7 Network in Australia.
The next day a review in Toronto Telegraph also read :” Laugh In” takes a page out of “Nightcap!” or words to that effect.
It was a duel jaw dropping experience but I had no idea how to handle it. On one hand this show was made for me as it was already partly done! On the other hand an unknown little writer in Canada claiming stolen material would be too much of a negative as an introduction to the really big time.
What to do?
I told Bob Jarvis and asked his advise…he said he knew Dan Rowan and Dick Martin really well having directed some stuff for them. Bob, God love him, made the momentous call to Hollywood that would set my US comedy writing career into high gear.
At the very moment all this was taking place the “Laugh In’s” initial ratings came in and NBC picked the show up for a series.
The dye was cast…
FADE UNTIL EPISODE #2.
“How to win friends and influence people and keep a straight face!”