Dick Martin, who was Dan Rowan’s suave partner, died yesterday in Santa Monica. He was 86.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, created and produced by TV comedy legend George Schlatter, was a phenomenal hit when it premiered in January 1968. It ran until 1973 and it changed the face of American TV and launched a school of American comedy.

Looking at the faded clips today, peopled with clunky cameos by “who the heck is that” grade celebrities, it’s impossible to imagine the breath of distinctly irreverent and downright naughty fresh air Laugh-In represented on American television. If nothing else we can be grateful to it for giving us Goldie Hawn, whose bikini-clad dumb blonde dancing girl became a national fixation.

One of the recurring blackout sketch players was Judy Carne — the “sock it to me girl”. She would appear in very short vignettes the punch line of which was always “sock it to me” and the result of which was always her being doused with a bucket of water or hit with a cream pie.

A famous night in Nixon lore is 18 September 1968 when RN appeared on Laugh-In. It was a daring decision on the part of the candidate and his campaign, and not surprisingly it was only reached after heated internal deliberations. Yes, it was important that he seem accessible (and even “with it” as they would have put it then); but what about the importance of being dignified?

The result was a very quick appearance —of the blink and you miss it variety— in which that familiar Nixon face filled the screen and the former Vice President and future POTUS gave those familiar words his own personal inflection and unique interpretation. Whereas Ms. Carne’s line was a declarative sentence, RN’s was an inflected interrogatory — “Sock it to me?” was his reading — with the personal pronoun emphasized. It turned out to be a brilliant move, not to mention a very effective performance. It is, alas, no longer available on YouTube (removed for “terms of use violation”).

Dick Martin had a long life and a colorful career. There will probably be many appreciations over the next several days, but here’s the AP obit from the Los Angeles Times.