Laughing our way through the 60’s and 70’s


I liked the sixties and seventies. I liked everything about it. The energy, the defiance, the music, and the comedians. It was a lively time, a time that you felt worthy of your youth. We didn’t spend a lot of time playing computer games or texting our friends all day. We went to their house and engaged them I a game of outdoor basketball or baseball, depending on the season. It was a time that was much more action-oriented than today. And it was a great time for comedians. They played into the hour and stepped into the limelight.


Television was making its presence felt. Black and white TV had turned to color, with bigger screens. In the midst of all the rebellion and chaos, along came a new group of comedians, the likes of which the world had never seen. The TV censors got a workout.


Here is just a very small sampling of some of the names: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, Tom and Dick Smothers, Flip Wilson, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby Carol Burnett, Lenny Bruce, Steve Martin, and Bob Newhart. There were many others.  These are some that I remember and liked. You probably have your own list. Send me some of your favorites, I’ll get them in a future Babble.


Let’s start off with Rowan and Martin. On TV, that translated into Laugh-In. It was a rapid fire vignette comedy, filled with sexual innuendo and political satire. The cast included San Rowan, Dick Martin, Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson, Judy Carne, Flip Wilson, Goldie Hawn, and Lily Tomlin. Hawn and Tomlin went on to have distinguished careers as actor. Some of the bands that were invited to play included The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Bee Gees, and the infamous Tiny Tim. He tip-toed through many a tulip. Years later I saw him in Burlington, Iowa. Interesting! I’ll never forget Flip Wilsons character, Geraldine, and her famous line, “What you see is what you get.” That was true of the whole program. It was a masterpiece.


George Carlin’s popularity started to increase in the early 60’s. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. Carlin became one of Johnny Carson’s most frequent guests. One of his most famous routines was “The hippie-dippy weather man.” Carlin pushed obscene issues to the limit. A Carlin classic was “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV.” Take a shot at guessing them. I won’t print any. He was arrested for the “Seven Words Routine” at Summerfest, in Milwaukee, in July, 1972. The case was later dismissed. Carlin also became an author in later in his life, publishing “Brain Droppings,” “Napalm and Silly Putty,” and “When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops.” Carlin died June 22, 2008, at the age of 71. He was on of the true sixties comedians.

He coined one of the sixties key philosophical understandings, “No one knows what comes next, but everyone does it.”


Next time we’ll look at a few more of the sixties and seventies acts, starting with The Smothers Brothers. Until then, keep on laughing. Some days, there’s not much else you can do.