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Here was the premise for the show. The 3 celebrity panelists would each
start off with a made up joke based on a category preselected. (all 3
jokes were different) The in-studio audience would clap after each
panelist hit their punchline and a hokey sort of machine would measure
the intensity of the audience's response and give each Cele a score,
then Dick would tell his joke, but it wasn't made up by him. It was
picked out of a barrel containing jokes sent in from home audiences.
A cash prize would be awarded to the home audience member if they had the highest score after the 4 jokes were told.
The upside part of the show was easily Morey Amsterdam. Very funny guy with good improv instincts. Also, naturally it gave the viewer lots of good jokes to steal. The bad part was that most of the jokes sent in from home were just not that good. Gautier tried his best but some jokes simply do not crack up an audience no matter who is telling it.
I think I have it right, but feel free to make corrections. This is based on memory from when this first aired.
I remember watching the syndicated version of Can You Top This when it
aired in 1970. Wink Martindale was the host and Morey Amsterdam (who
was also the executive producer) was a regular panelist on this brief
revival of the radio comedy game show that was anchored by "Senator" Ed
On the plus side, the comedic talent was outstanding. In Martindale's biography "Winking at Life", he mentioned that Morey booked a number of his comedy friends on the show. Danny Thomas appeared on the show as well as Soupy Sales and The Ritz Brothers. Also contributing to the mayhem were joke tellers Dick Gautier and Richard Dawson. Like the radio show, audience responses were measured on a "Laugh Meter."
On the minus side, this adaptation of a long-running radio show didn't translate well to TV. The set as well as the prize money was low budget and it just wasn't visual enough. Can You Top This didn't exactly top the ratings and was canceled after only eight months. It's a show that would work a lot better on either satellite radio or Comedy Central.
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