Comedian Dan Rowan of the hit 1960s TV comedy series "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" died today at his home in Englewood, Fla., a family spokeswoman announced. He was 65.
Rowan, who played straight man to partner Dick Martin for more than 20 years in nightclubs, TV and movies, died of lymphatic cancer, said Valerie Douglas, a family friend.
At Rowan's side were his wife, Joanna, and his daughter Mary. His son Tom was en route to the Rowan home when the comedian died.
Rowan was the driving force of the comedy team, which starred in "Laugh-In" on NBC-TV from January, 1968, through May, 1973.
It was a fast-paced hour of laughs with blackouts, sketches and silliness that reminded viewers of the old Olsen and Johnson stage shows.
In addition to making overnight stars of Rowan and Martin, the comedy series introduced such other stars as Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Ruth Buzzi and Judy Carne.
It was Rowan's banter with Martin that brought into being such catch phrases as "Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere," "Sock it to me," "You bet your bippy," "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls" and "Beautiful downtown Burbank."
Rowan and Martin were close friends off-camera and were proud of the fact that their partnership had endured longer than any other comedy team.
Rowan was born in Beggs, Okla., July 2, 1922. At 4, he was dancing and singing in a touring carnival with his parents. He was orphaned at 11 and placed in an orphanage in Colorado, where he was eventually adopted.
After graduating from high school Rowan hitchhiked to Los Angeles and at 19 found a job as a junior writer at Paramount Studios. He quit to become a pilot in the Air Corps during World War II and was shot down in New Guinea.
When he was discharged from the service in 1946, Rowan returned to Los Angeles to sell used cars. He met Martin, a Los Angeles bartender, and together they began working on a nightclub act.
During the last 15 years, Rowan lived most of the time on a barge on the inland waterways of Europe, often making Paris his headquarters. During the winter he lived at his home on the beach near Englewood, Fla.