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Dan Rowan Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (7) | Personal Quotes (5)

Overview (4)

Born in Beggs, Oklahoma, USA
Died in Englewood, Florida, USA  (lymphatic cancer)
Birth NameDaniel Hale Rowan
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Dan Rowan was a comedian most famous as the straight man to Dick Martin, with whom he co-hosted the watershed TV program Laugh-In (1967) from 1968-1973. The comedian debuted into small-town life as Daniel Hale Rowan in Beggs, Oklahoma on July 22, 1922, the son of show people. As a child, Rowan toured the carnival circuit with his mother in father as part of a song and dance act. Orphaned in 1933, he eventually was adopted by a family in Denver, Colorado. He moved to Hollywood after high school, and obtained employment as a writer at Paramount Studios. Rowan joined the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II, where he distinguished himself as a P-40 fighter plane pilot in the Pacific Theater. Rowan was credited with downing two Japanese aircraft (it took five kills to be named an ace during World War II), but he was shot down and seriously wounded in New Guinea. During his military career, Rowan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

Demobilized, Dan Rowan returned to California and married Phyllis Mathis in 1946. He and Phyllis had three children, Thomas, Mary Ann (who was briefly married to actor and professional Presidential brother-in-law Peter Lawford, and Christie. (Rowan divorced his first wife and married again, to Adriana Van Ballegooyen in 1963). He eventually teamed up with Dick Martin in a comedy act that toured the night-club circuit and played Las Vegas. Rowan & Martin had made TV appearances before on such programs as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "Merv Griffin" before being hired by NBC to host a comedy special in the summer of 1967. In an era of "Be-Ins" and "Love-Ins" (an outgrowth of the "Sit-Ins" of the Civil Rights Movement, itself a reflection of the autoworkers' sit-ins of the late 1930s staged to win labor union recognition), NBC wanted to host a "Laugh-In". The middle-aged Rowan & Martin were picked as the hosts. The success of the special lead to the scheduling of Laugh-In (1967) as part of NBC's regular line-up in 1968, programmed against the popular Lucille Ball on CBS.

A hybrid comedy-variety program that proved a counterpoint to the more satirical and political The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967) on rival network CBS, "Laugh-In" was rooted in traditional vaudeville like most musical/variety series of the time, but had an improvisational, anarchic style. This style, which downplayed appearances of guest stars like Jack Benny, Johnny Carson, John Wayne, Zsa Zsa Gabor and even Richard Nixon in favor of the cast of regulars, reflected the late '60s zeitgeist. As hosts, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin did not dominate their variety show as did a contemporary like Dean Martin. Part of the fun and the freshness of the series was that the two co-hosts were continually being undermined by the appearances of the regulars, during which a comedic "all-hell" would break loose. The sight-gags and appearance of the eccentric performers created a sense of the unexpected that proved intoxicating to TV audiences. (The regular cast included announcer Gary Owens, Emmy-winner Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Emmy-winner Arte Johnson, Alan Sues, Jo Anne Worley, and Judy Carne, while the regularly appearing guest stars included Tiny Tim, Peter Lawford and Henny Youngman).

The dynamic of the two co-hosts also was anarchic, as Dan Rowan's straight-man continually was undermined by the silliness and outright other-world imbecility of Dick Martin's comic persona. In this, Martin was an ally of the cast, who appeared willy-nilly during the broadcast, without discernible rhyme or reason other than making merry. Rowan, as the "mature" member of the hosting ensemble, was less a conductor of the comedy show than a ring-master who seemed to have found himself put down inside the center of the lion's den, with a hopelessly inept lion-tamer (Martin) as his partner.

"Laugh-In" was considered revolutionary at the time in terms of production, as it broke away from the old proscenium stage production that had dominated variety shows on TV since the beginning of broadcast television after World War II. The program was produced with a quick-cutting, fragmentary editing style that not only reflected current avant-gard movie production techniques but fully realized the power of video. It was an audacious melding of form and content, and "Laugh-In" proved to be a huge hit and was one of the highest-rated series of the late 1960s. It would prove to be the single most influential TV show in terms of its influence on comedy until the debut of the more conventionally produced Saturday Night Live (1975) in 1975.

"Laugh-In" won three Emmys at the 1968 Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Musical or Variety Program (for the 1967 Special), for Best Musical or Variety Series, and for Best Writing (shared by ten writers, including series creator Digby Wolfe). Due to its topicality and because it so closely caught the spirit of the '60s and reflected that era's aesthetic, "Laugh-In" quickly dated and never packed the punch in syndication that other retired TV shows did. Nothing becomes old-fashioned more quickly than the fashionable. However, "Laugh-In" also proved ground-breaking in its introduction and use of female and minority performers, bringing to a mainstream audience such diverse entertainers as the great, "Chitlin Circuit" African-American comedian Dewey 'Pigmeat' Markham and the young, Emmy-nominated Goldie Hawn, who would go on to a long movie-career as an Oscar-winning comedienne and top box-office star. Rowan & Martin attempted to launch a movie career, but their attempt to become the late '60's answer to Martin & Lewis with the ill-conceived The Maltese Bippy (1969) flopped. After "Laugh-In" was canceled in 1973, Rowan occasionally made some TV program and game show appearances, but eventually retired to Florida. A type II diabetic, he died of lymphatic cancer in Manasota Key, Florida on September 22, 1987. He was 65 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (3)

'Joanna Young' (1976 - 22 September 1987) (his death)
Adriana Van Ballegooygn (17 June 1963 - 1974) (divorced)
'Phyllis Mathis' (1946 - 1960) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Catchphrase, "You bet your sweet bippy!"

Trivia (7)

He and Dick Martin became famous as the comedy team of Rowan and Martin.
Auditioned for the original version of The Hollywood Squares (1965) but lost out to Peter Marshall.
Was type II Diabetic
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 744-746. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Was a decorated Army Air Forces fighter pilot in World War II.
Former father-in-law of Peter Lawford.
His first wife was Miss California 1945, and placed first runner-up to Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945.

Personal Quotes (5)

Humor is essential. If you can't laugh at yourself you might wind up killing yourself.
I'm not altogether convinced that this is a profession for grown men. What I'd like is to get on a 55-foot steel hull craft, an old North Sea trawler, bundle up my bride and take off for the Greek islands for a year. I'd fish, sail and write pearly words on my Big Chief pad and for this somebody would send me bags of money.
[on the end of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In] We just ran dry. If you consider the amount of material that had to be consumed and heard, it was monumental. Dick and I would open every show with a monologue, and we'd have what they call the middle monologue, and then we'd have a monologue at the end. You're talking about more than 300 monologues. It's difficult enough to find something to talk about - much less to be funny about - 300 hundred different times.
My role in the team is to be the well-intentioned but not always correct authority.
[1958] Three years ago I was living in a cheap hotel room in New York with a two-burner hot plate. I'd buy a dozen franks, carrots, potatoes, anything I could boil. For entertainment, you'd get on the subway and go catch a 49 cent movie.

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