For George Schlatter, the creator of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, there was a key moment when the Classic TV comedy sketch series had gone from an oddity to cultural phenomenon: Sammy Davis, Jr., an old friend, was making a guest appearance on the show. They were joking around with comedy bits involving a judge, when, according to George, Sammy came up with the phrase, “Here come da judge!”, which would lead into a sketch about the banter between a defendant and a judge dressed in black robe and oversized wig (becoming a national catchphrase in the process).
“We taped ‘Here Come Da Judge’ at two in the morning,” says George exclusively. “It was so funny that we put it on the next show. Suddenly people were walking down the hall saying, ‘Here come da judge.’ The show went on that Monday night, and Tuesday or Wednesday morning when the Supreme Court came into the courtroom, somebody in the back of the room said, ‘Here come da judge!’ Well, the whole courtroom cracked up, and when they heard a laugh in the Supreme Court, people were, like, ‘Wait a minute? What is this?'”
What it was, was an antidote to the typical variety show — which is being celebrated by the new Netflix special Still Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate, with streaming beginning on May 14. For George, though, the original show was also a solution to a creative boredom that he was feeling in his career by the mid 1960s. “I had done The Judy Garland Show, I’d done The Steve Lawrence Show, and I’d done The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and they were all pretty much the same show,” he says. “The host came out, sang, sat on a stool, did a duet, etc. At the same time, I was doing The Best On Record for NBC, which was the early Grammy Awards. There was no award, there was no academy, but we kept doing it. It was just the very beginning of it, and I didn’t want to do it anymore, because we were giving an award to anybody who would show up. But the network had sold it and said they wanted me to continue, so I said I would do one more year if they let me do one special my way with no interference and no suggestions. And they said yes, not really meaning it.”
The conversation with George Schlatter regarding Laugh-In continues below; just scroll down.
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