The quintessential variety show host Art Linkletter was adept at touching the average American's funny bone and pulling the heartstrings often simultaneously. His "House Party" made the listener and later the viewer feel at home. His forte came to be conversations with children which eventually put him on the best-seller list with "Kids Say The Darndest Things," culled from his many interviews with the little tads. Beginning as a radio personality, Linkletter found it easy to transfer his easy-going down-home mannerisms to the tube.
His most successful prime time show came to be "People Are Funny," begun on radio in 1942, which reached its peak on television in the mid 1950's. He would have guests chosen beforehand from the studio audience do crazy stunts--mainly of a slapstick nature. Some of the tricks were psychological in tone, for example having the guest attempt to give money away to passers-by on the street, turning out to be a very difficult task indeed.
Being a youngster at the time, what I remember most about the show was the huge computer labeled Univac by the producers, which today would be little more than a giant calculator, but very impressive in 1956. Linkletter attempted to use the computer as a matching machine for couples. It was fun to watch and now considered a pioneering effort for early television.
I also recall Linkletter making a big to-do about an old codger living as a hermit in the Ozark hills. Since I lived in the Ozarks, my interest was aroused. Supposedly, the old timer had no contact with the outside world. Linkletter had him flown to LA to appear on "People Are Funny," his first confrontation with air travel and big city life. On stage he appeared nonplussed and somewhat dumbfounded. The gimmick didn't go as well as planned. The old geezer was hurriedly taken back to the Ozarks on a big bird.
For those early TV addicts who wanted their fun simple and down to earth, "People Are Funny" was for them. And who could ask for a more personable host than Art Linkletter?
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