Netflix is quickly becoming the home of classic sketch comedy show reunion specials. Later this year the streamer will be airing the SCTV reunion it filmed in 2018. Before then it’ll be filming a 50th anniversary celebration of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which will be happening this Friday at the Dolby Theatre in L.A. Lily Tomlin, a Laugh-In regular over its last four seasons, and the show’s creator George Schlatter will be joined by a litany of guests to commemorate the history of this one-of-a-kind show.
If you’ve never seen Laugh-In, imagine a show that looks like any corny ‘60s variety show, but with a rapid-fire pace and irreverent tone that made it feel like nothing else on TV at the time. (While also still being kind of corny, honestly.) The anarchic sketch show, which debuted on NBC in 1967 but became a regular weekly series in 1968, fractured the traditional variety format with lightning editing and bite-sized non sequiturs, and then glued it all back together inside hippie dress to appeal to the late ‘60s youth market. It’s almost absurd to call it a sketch show—some of its “sketches” would literally be a few seconds long, just long enough for a character to pop up and spout a line. This unusual approach made it a national craze during its earliest days, entering phrases like “sock it to me” and “you bet your sweet bippy” into the cultural dialogue, and attracting a number of big-name guest stars, including Richard Nixon when he was running for president in 1968. It helped turn Goldie Hawn into a household name, was an early writing job for SNL’s Lorne Michaels, and gave lots of screen time to famous regulars like Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and more. (Reruns were also a staple of Nick at Nite’s programming in the late ‘80s, which is how a certain Paste comedy editor came to be a big fan of the show.)
The tribute special will be an all-star affair, with a couple dozen comedians announced to appear, in addition to Tomlin and Schlatter. Few of the show’s actual cast are still with us, but Worley is billed for the special, and assuming their health holds out, it would just be wrong if Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson don’t make an appearance. And, y’know, Hawn, obviously. The announced guests include Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Maria Bamford, Neal Patrick Harris, Michael Douglas, Jay Leno, Ron Funches, Rita Moreno, Bobby Moynihan, and more. Expect to see them some of them spouting off one-liners while dancing at a swingin’ ‘60s party or while popping out of a wall covered in psychedelic paint swirls.
No air date is announced, but since it’s already missed the show’s actual 50th anniversary by two years, there’s probably not much of a rush.
Maybe if this does well Netflix will commission a 50th anniversary tribute to Schlatter’s Turn-On, one of the most infamous TV failures of all time.