How Nixon Got to Say ‘Sock It to Me’

It may be one of the signature seconds of “Laugh-In,” the influential and insurrectionist 1960s sketch humor: Nixon saying the hot catch phrase of the day, immediately before the 1968 President election:

“Sock It to Me?”

Up until then, politicians didn’t cross paths with TV variety shows. But Nixon was a friend of show producer and writer Paul W. Keyes.

As producer George Schlatter remembers: “I said, ‘Let’s do something.  What about Nixon?’” And Keyes, according to Schlatter, said, “We’ll go talk to him”

“So we went over to CBS, and Paul said, ‘Mr. Nixon, we want you to say, “Sock it to me.”’  He said, ‘What is ‘Sock it to me.’?”  I said, ‘Just say that.’  He did say that.  So we got a camera.

“Now, his guys are still saying ‘He can’t do it,’ and we’re in there, and we say, “Just say, ‘Sock it to me.'”  “Sock it to me.”  “No, no, Mr. Nixon.  If you could say, like, ‘Sock it to me.'”  “Yes, I’ve got it.  This comedy is new for me, you know.  Sock it to me.”

“So we took six takes, six takes to try to get the one you saw, and we were out of there like a porch climber. And put it on before anybody really knew what we were doing or knew the effect that it would have,” Schlatter said.

“Then we chased Hubert Humphrey all over the country trying to get him to rebut it,” but they couldn’t get him to do the same thing. And he said that cost him the election.

“I must admit, that was my biggest mistake, and I’ve had to live with that,” Schlatter said, “ever since he announced that that may have gotten him elected.”

Schlatter narrates the retrospective “The Best of Laugh-In” for PBS in March.

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