The Jesters

Brigitte Sire

Lily Tomlin (16 noms, 4 wins) and George Schlatter (16 noms, 3 wins)

The industry really didn't understand [Rowan & Martin's] Laugh-In," says George Schlatter, the show's co-creator and producer. "So winning Emmys meant a certain kind of acceptance." During its six-season run starting in 1968, the goofy NBC variety show -- which broke an unprecedented number of female comedians, including Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley and Goldie Hawn -- featured politically charged and controversial moments such as the now iconic 1968 bit featuring then-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon deadpanning the show's popular tagline: "Sock it to me?" (Schlatter explains that the Nixon administration later pressured NBC to ban political humor on the show). The 72-year-old Tomlin (now starring in Showtime's Web Therapy) says Laugh-In established a reputation for pushing boundaries and "taking hypocrites and abusers to task." She says, "Even with my limited politics, I would still say things that I might not say 10 years later. But even in the old days, I would tell George, 'I can't say this joke, it's sexist!' And George would say, 'Babe, you don't have to,' and yell out, 'Jo Anne!' " While Tomlin didn't join the program until 1969, Schlatter says her arrival marked a new chapter for Laugh-In. "When she dressed as [eccentric telephone operator] Ernestine, you saw this woman come to life," says the retired 78-year-old, who makes a point of seeing Tomlin as often as he can. "It was more than a character, it became a part of the culture. Afterward, everyone was walking around going, 'One ringy dingy, two ringy dingies.' "

Photographed by Brigitte Sire on Aug. 16 in Sherman Oaks


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