|Lily Tomlin, Barbara Sharma, Goldie Hawn,|
Ruth Buzzi, and Nanci Phillips on
Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
A few years after the show's cancellation in 1973 when I was working as a theater critic, I reviewed an Off-Off-Broadway comedy not unlike Noises Off or The Play That Goes Wrong about a troupe of incompetent actors in a cliche-ridden murder mystery full of onstage mishaps. (I can't remember the title) The cast list included Nanci Phillips and I thought "Wasn't she on Laugh-In?" Then I read her program bio and yes Laugh-in was in her credits. She was on for one season (1970-71) and did an impersonation of Jackie Onassis and a Southern belle during the cocktail party sequences. She usually played the attractive, smart young woman who wound up fending off Dick Martin's advances or giving in to them. The play was forgettable, but afterwards I waited in the lobby for Nanci to come out and told her how I remembered her from Laugh-In and even the bits she did. She was so flattered that she later asked me to lunch (my positive review didn't hurt either.) At lunch, she regaled me with stories of working with such stars as Bob Hope, Sid Caesar and Orson Welles. She explained they would record the musical numbers and them lip-synch them when taping (just like my fellow sixth graders miming along to The Temptations). It was exciting talking with a cast member of a beloved TV show. When I told her I wanted to be an actor, Nanci said one of the actors in her play would be leaving soon and I should audition to replace him. But nothing ever come of it.
According to imdb, Nanci passed away a few years ago and did not have any major credits since Laugh-In. There are few biographical details, so I do wonder what happened to her. The only photo I could find of her was a group shot with other cast members when Goldie Hawn returned as the guest star.
|Ruth Buzzi as Gladys Orphmsby|
Stereotypes of gay people were also prevalent with Alan Sues' swishy Big Al, Martin as the ballet-loving son of old-world poppa Zero Mostel in a guest turn, and Lily Tomlin as a butch bowler. (One wonders how Tomlin, a lesbian, felt having to play these negative images. Sues did have one brilliant departure from his queeny role in a funny musical number with Lee Grant where he played a Hefner-esque straight playboy.) But these gay images only played on cliches and did not get into the forbidden idea of people being attracted to the same sex. Laugh-In was supposed to be anti-Establishment in its style and form, but was pretty conventional in its content as opposed to the Smothers Brothers show which was really revolutionary and got cancelled after only three seasons. Paul Keys, one of the producers of Laugh-In, was an intimate friend of Nixon.
|Dan Rowan and Dick Martin|