Film and TV

Laugh-In's George Schlatter Will Receive The Dallas VideoFest's Ernie Kovacs Award


Long before The Daily Show became the most trusted name in fake news, including the one with the smarmy guy from Sportscenter who threw away his late night career to star in a Rob Schneider movie, and even long before the first season of Saturday Night Live gave a much needed ribbing to the stupidity and egos in the day's news, TV had Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.

The sketch comedy ensemble that helped launch names like Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin became a cultural touchstone not just for the medium but also for edgy humor (or as edgy as you could get on a network in the late 1960s without earning the wrath of network censors or J. Edgar Hoover) in a medium that was usually too scared of its audience to try something new. It was so successful that it actually made Richard Nixon appear (gasp!) funny, perhaps for the first time ever in a completely intentional manner.

Television producer George Schlatter, the driving force behind Laugh-In as well as several other televisions comedies and the American Comedy Awards, will be honored for his work with the Ernie Kovacs Award next Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of the annual Dallas VideoFest. The announcement of Schlatter's honor also came with an interesting side note. He not only joins the ranks of other pioneering television icons who received the award such as Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, director Terry Gilliam and Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge. He's also one of the few recipients to have a direct connection to the award's namesake. His wife, Jolene Brand Schlatter, worked on many of Kovacs' brilliant, fourth wall breaking comedy shows before his tragic death in 1962. Here is the future Mrs. Schlatter in one of her most memorable performances on Kovacs' sketch show.

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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.