John Wayne was best known for playing rough-and-tumble cowboys characters whose sense of humor is based mostly on where they shoot you. But he could always take a joke and was quick with a quip.
It’s why he was such a popular special guest on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh–In. But there was one visit that stood out amongst the others. Wayne appeared on the show in a giant, blue velvet bunny suit one Easter. The joke was how much he hated the bit. So when he walks out to gales of laughter, he turns to the hosts to set some boundaries.
“First one that snickers gets a broken face,” he growls.
The sketch revolves around a group of rabbits who don’t have enough Easter eggs, so they hope Billy Bunny (Wayne) will be able to save them and the children some heartache.
But after the other animals try to teach John Wayne the best way to bunny hop, he says he’s had enough.
“I’m going to go to some bar and have a martini,” he said, with a perfect comedy beat. “And a carrot.”
He then proves he does know how to hop as he exits the stage door, bouncing the entire way to guffaws from the crowd.
At the end of the show he puts a button on the bit.
“I guess it could have been worse,” he says, deadpan. “They could have asked me to dress up like a liberal.”
John Wayne Did Westerns, Several Comedies Too
The Duke was no one-trick pony. He performed in several comedies during his years as a movie star, not just Westerns.
From the romantic comedy North to Alaska to McClintock, Wayne had a fairly decent range as a comedic actor. But to be fair, none of them are that great. They are products of their time, and most are using Wayne for the novelty of it. But even in the bad ones like North to Alaska, which is a farce-filled film full of bad sound effects and cheap gags, Wayne is still funny.
And he was never above poking fun at his own image. Most of his late-night appearances on shows like Laugh-In, Don Rickles TV Special, or even The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Wayne was always game to take part in bits where he was the fool or foil to the hosts.