Letters to Laugh-In

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was a hit TV show that aired from January of 1968 to May of 1973. In September of ’69, its producers tried expanding their franchise into daytime with Letters to Laugh-In. This was back when each network’s daytime schedule was taken up with game shows and soap operas…and every year, someone would suggest, “Hey, maybe the housewives would like a change of pace.” There were several attempts to introduce comedy and/or variety into those line-ups and like Letters to Laugh-In, they didn’t last long. (The show it replaced, by the way, was the original Match Game. When Letters to Laugh-In failed to click, NBC replaced it with a soap opera, Somerset, which was a spin-off of another NBC soap opera, Another World.)

The host of Letters to Laugh-In was Gary Owens, who served as announcer of the prime-time show, and the premise was simple enough. Viewers were invited to send in their favorite jokes and each day, Gary and three guest performers would read selected jokes aloud. If your joke got read on the air, you received the tidy sum of $2.00 and there was a real prize if yours was selected as the best of the day. The worst joke won a trip to Beautiful Downtown Burbank. One of the three performers on each week of shows was a member of the prime-time cast. On the above ticket, the Laugh-In performer was Alan Sues, who apparently hadn’t been on the show long enough for the NBC ticket printers to know how to spell his name.

I recall it as a fun, fast-paced show that might have worked in another part of the day. One of the writers of the prime-time show, David Panich, was once asked about it. David said, “That was just a plot on the part of our cheap producers to establish that a joke was worth no more than two dollars.”