Marshall McLuhan, watcha doin?


Comedy skit with Goldie Hawn & Carl Reiner on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, 1970.                  

Marshall McLuhan, watcha doin?   –   By Steve Tarter

“Marshall McLuhan, watcha doin?” That was Henry Gibson’s recurring line on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” many years ago. [Correction: McLuhan biographer W. Terrence Gordon informs me that the phrase was uttered by Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In.]
Then there was the cameo appearance that McLuhan made in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” where he informed a loudmouth in line at a movie theater that he knew nothing of his work.
Understanding McLuhan has never been easy but experiencing his explosive text is never dull. A recent blog by Gord Hotchkiss, a senior vice president at Mediative, an ad agency in British Columbia, related his experience of recalling McLuhan since his daughter, a senior in high school, wrote an essay on McLuhan’s theories of media.
“To be honest, I hadn’t given McLuhan much thought since my college days,” wrote Hotchkiss, who graduated in 1979.
“My daughter’s essay caused me to dig up my half-formed understanding of what McLuhan was trying to say ,” he said. Hotchkiss focused on this passage from McLuhan’s “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”:

“The next medium, whatever it is — it may be the extension of consciousness — will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s ency clopedic function and flip into a private time to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.”

Remember this was written in the 1960s.
Hotchkiss again: “McLuhan foretold something that I believe is unfolding before our eyes…while we focus on the messages we receive, we fail to notice that the way we receive those messages are changing every thing we know, forever. Twitter, Facebook, Google, the xBox and Y ouTube — all are co-conspirators in a wholesale rewiring of our world.”
As Hotchkiss notes, the Global Village is “smaller, faster, more connected and, in many ways, more terrifying.” But it’s comforting to return to the electric oracle once again.
McLuhan’s broadsides, while revolutionary in their day , can be appreciated in this age of constant change. .

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In

Laugh-In Network: NBC
Episodes: 140 (hour)
Seasons: Six   –   TV show dates: January 22, 1968 – March 12, 1973
Series status: Cancelled/ended

Performers include: Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson, Jo Anne Worley, Judy Carne, Flip Wilson, Alan Sues, Goldie Hawn, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, and Tiny Tim.                                                                       

rowan and martin's laugh-in past TV show

TV show description: Hosted by comedy team Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, this fast-paced variety show began as a one-time special but it was so popular that Laugh-In was developed into a weekly series. The show features bits of comedy done at a rapid-fire pace in sketches and live-to tape segments.

6 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan, watcha doin?”

  1. 1 w. terrence gordon

    Not quite right: it was Goldie Hawn, not Henry Gibson.


  2. 4 Kathleen F.

    Actually, it was usually Henry Gibson- it was only Goldie Hawn a few times.

  1. 1 The sexiness of PR | CPRS TORONTO
  2. 2 Hot Air: POV | The Electron Pencil

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