History has it, this ended up being the longest laugh in a live television studio recording. For nostalgia fans, it’s no surprise it happened on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Great actors and a great script come together flawlessly to create an epic moment this epic television history, but it almost didn’t happen.
If the network had their way, “That’s My Boy??” may have never made comedy history. Instead, thanks to showrunner Carl Reiner, for a delicate moment in our nation’s history, we were able to put aside the tension and just laugh together.
Hollywood legend and creator of the Dick Van Dyke Show, Carl Reiner, hired talented writing duo Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. Their first script for the show opened the season. It also might have ended Reiner’s association with the show, had the network had its way regarding its twist ending, we learn thanks to an interview with Vanity Fair.
Carl Reiner wanted stories that came from his writers’ real lives. “That’s My Boy??” is structured as a flashback to Ritchie’s birth and an increasingly frantic Rob’s certainty that the hospital has sent them home with the wrong baby.
And yes, it had a basis in reality: As Persky tells it, “When my first child was born, I was so intense. In the hospital, we got some other people’s flowers. After a couple of other mistakes, I said, ‘How do you know you’re going home with the right baby?’”
So the real-life experience was translated to a script, and they began writing. Their biggest challenge was coming up with an ending—a quick, funny conclusion that established Rob had the right baby. The episode concludes with Rob inviting another couple with a similar last name to his home, just in case they have to exchange infants. Persky credits Reiner with coming up with the idea to make the other couple African-American.
Reiner recalls, “I told the censors to come and see the live filming to see what the audience does. I guarantee you the audience knows where our heart is. And they’re going to either applaud or laugh heartily. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Watch this famous clip of television history and have a good laugh. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see more from the Dick Van Dyke show. By far one of the top 5 episodes of this brilliantly-written piece TV history.