Today saw the death of veteran host Art Linkletter, at the age of 97. He was originally from Saskatchewan, moved to California in his teens, and became a hugely successful radio and television host. His shows were famous for being about you, or at least people you felt like you knew; the formula was to take ordinary people and lives and make us enjoy laughing at them — sometimes affectionately, and sometimes contemptuously. The famous “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segment from House Party (the segment spun off into its own series) was just what it sounded like. “People Are Funny,” which he hosted on radio and TV (though he wasn’t the original choice; Art Baker hosted for the first season), was based on the premise that it can actually be funnier to see regular people get tricked than it is to watch (or hear about) actors pretending to be tricked.
James Poniewozik had some thoughts on how Linkletter’s shows helped to shape the culture and style of modern reality television (and not just reality TV; late-night segments where the host goes out and interacts with real people have obvious roots in shows like “People Are Funny”).
And here’s the Warner Brothers cartoon parody of “People Are Funny,” entitled “People Are Phoney,” and hosted by “Art Lamplighter” (voiced by Daws Butler).