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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

4 Comments

  1. Alex Wilcock
    September 27, 2013 @ 12:57 am

    Thanks for that – I always mean to find out if Laugh-In is available to watch anywhere, as I have fond memories of it completely out of context in late-'70s UK repeats when I was a little boy. Though "Sock it to me" wasn't the catchphrase I always remembered (speaking of which, what was the family-friendly version of 'You bet your ass!'? Because to British ears that sounds like the family-friendly version already). Though perhaps I noticed that the women were wearing revealing clothes to be decorative and the men were very buttoned-down…

    My instinctive counter-argument 'progressive comedy good, conservative comedy bad' (aside from wondering if it's so cut-and-dried: isn't the implication of the Reagan joke also that big butch Reagan is terrified of hippy students?) would be to ask who watches it. If it got a wide social spectrum to watch, might that not encourage some conservatives to laugh at themselves and their leaders, which would undermine them?

    And I your two "progressive" gags were very funny.

    For all that, I'd like to see it again, which must say something about it when logic tells me I should bear grudges for helping kill off Star Trek and, more importantly to me, The Avengers, which it suddenly killed in the ratings and cut off the all-important US funding for. One of my Avengers reviews even quotes how they responded to it, and I use the catchphrase I remember to critique it back…

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  2. Adam Riggio
    September 27, 2013 @ 3:02 am

    You don't remember, "You bet your sweet bippy!"? I can understand if you don't remember the film version they made.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ4n_n_eYIQ

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  3. Josh Marsfelder
    September 27, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    I like the idea that more right-leaning people would watch a show like Laugh-In and be encouraged to laugh at themselves. While I'm unsure of the exact demographics, occupying a primetime slot would seem to indicate that it had a pretty wide and significant audience pool, and the fact the Laugh-Indid so often try to make fun of everyone equally could be read as an attempt to shift the discourse a bit.

    Certainly if everyone's fair game that also puts everyone on the same level playing field in a sense. I'm not entirely sure that makes up for parodying the oppressed, which I'm morally opposed to just on principle, but it may well have had net positive consequences.

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  4. Alex Wilcock
    September 29, 2013 @ 3:19 am

    Oh, that's where that comes from! Thank you. And I'd never heard of the film version…

    And that would be my feeling, Josh, but I'm torn between arguing the difference between criticising people who have power and who don't and realising pragmatically that 'Do as I say, not as I do' is never a mind-changer.

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