Judy Carne, ‘Laugh-In’ Actress, Passes Away At 76

Judy Carne, the firecracker British actress who became known as the “Sock it to me girl” on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in the late 1960s, has died, MSN is reporting. She was 76.

Carne actually died on September 3, but her death is only now gaining international media attention. As of this post, Judy Carne’s cause of death is not known for certain. A friend of the actress, Jon Barrett, says via the New York Times that she likely died of pneumonia. She had been hospitalized for several days before she died.

Born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1939, Judy Carne studied at the prestigious Bush Davies Theatrical School for Girls. In her early career, she built up a résumé of appearances on stage, movies, and the small screen, usually playing bit parts. After moving to the United States, Carne continued to build up TV and movie credits, appearing on such 1960s staples as Gunsmoke, Gidget, Bonanza, and The Patty Duke Show.

Beginning in 1968, Judy Carne took on the role that would define her career: in the first two seasons (and in infrequent appearances during the third season) of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Carne played the role of “The Sock It To Me Girl” — every time she said “Sock it to me,” accidentally or on purpose, she would be doused with water.

As Times writer Bruce Weber explains, the joke was considered rather racy at the time, and helped make Judy Carne a household name.

“Often racy in content — well, racy for the time — the show featured attractive women (Ms. Carne and Goldie Hawn among them) in miniskirts and other revealing costumes and jokes about sex, drugs and politics that tested network censors. It was enormously popular, in part because of Ms. Carne and the running gag that became a national meme.”

However, after two seasons, Carne became tired of the gag — people would randomly toss water on her as she walked down the street — and limited her appearances on the show during its third season. She did not appear on the show after the third season. Judy Carne’s personal life was in stark contrast to the laugh-a-minute character she portrayed on Laugh-In. She was briefly married to Burt Reynolds, a marriage which Carne claimed was abusive in her autobiography. She also suffered from heroin addiction, and would be arrested several times on drug charges, making it harder for her to get roles.

In her later years, Judy Carne lived a quiet life in England, occasionally performing in local dinner theater, but mostly keeping to herself.

[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Keystone]