The Vitameatavegamin episode of I Love Lucy is one of those shows that everyone just kind of knows. Like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First,” it’s a comedy bit that has seeped into the comedic lexicon and remained for 50 years.
Desi Arnaz knew that the show had something special as well. It’s why he couldn’t get through filming it without ruining takes because he was breaking into laughter mid-scene. To keep him from laughing, he bit the inside of his cheek hard to help keep a straight face. But when he wasn’t in the scene, he loved what he saw.
If you watch the clip below, you can hear a familiar laugh from the studio audience. That’s Desi cackling from the wings as Lucy struggles to get the vile-tasting elixir down, according to IMDB.
Lucille Ball’s comedic brilliance is on full display in this episode. There’s no wonder TV Guide ranked “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” as the second-greatest television episode of all time. It was only topped by The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s “Chuckles Bites the Dust.”
The Vitameatavegamin commercial is up there with the chocolate factory episode. As with any I Love Lucy episode, Lucy shines brightest when she’s asked to perform physical comedy.
Lucy, Desi Partnership Began Before ‘I Love Lucy’
Long before Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were one of America’s most beloved couples, they were struggling to find their place in the entertainment industry. Both had some successes — Lucy as an actress and Desi as a bandleader. But nothing like the heights they’d find once they teamed up.
They met on the set of Dance, Girl, Dance in 1940. Then, the couple appeared together in Lucille Ball’s next film, Too Many Girls. Before long, they were madly in love. They realized their chemistry was something special, but TV executives were slow to latch on to the idea. Lucille Ball was offered several lucrative deals to star in her own sitcoms but Ricky wouldn’t play her husband. So, she walked.
So they took their act on the road. The couple toured around the country and audiences loved them. Their vaudeville routine of comedy and music was a massive success. It wasn’t long before CBS decided to reconsider their position of bringing Ricky on as Lucy’s husband. That led to I Love Lucy, which ran for six seasons of some of the most groundbreaking comedies ever.