Friday, March 4, 2016
People are Funny
People Are Funny is an American radio and television game show, created by John Guedel that ran from 1942 to 1960 in which contestants were asked to carry out stunts.
The series began in 1938 when Guedel made an audition recording, and the following year, his concept of a comedy stunt show aired in Los Angeles as Pull Over, Neighbor, later reworked into All Aboard. Watching a bored, unreceptive audience listening to an after-dinner speaker, Guedel scribbled, "People are funny, aren't they?" on a napkin, and he had his title.
In 1942, learning of a show that was canceled, he pitched People Are Funny to NBC, and it went on the air April 10, 1942 with Art Baker as host. In a popular first-season stunt, a man was assigned to register a trained seal at the Knickerbocker Hotel while explaining that the seal was his girlfriend.
On October 1, 1943, Baker was replaced by Art Linkletter, who continued for the rest of the series. For a memorable stunt of 1945, Linkletter announced that $1,000 would go to the first person to find one of 12 plastic balls floating off California. Two years later, an Ennylageban Island native claimed the prize.
As the popularity of the program escalated, a movie musical titled People Are Funny was released in 1946, offering a fictional version of the show's origin in a tale of rival radio producers. Phillip Reed appeared as Guedel, with Linkletter and Frances Langford portraying themselves. Also in the cast were Jack Haley, Helen Walker, Ozzie Nelson and Rudy Vallée. One outstanding moment in the film is a Spanish dance number performed by Lupe Mayorga (aka Lillian Molieri) to the song "I Love My Marimba." The radio series moved to CBS from 1951 to 1954, returning to NBC from 1954 to 1960.
Linkletter continued as host of the show during its run on television from September 19, 1954 to April 1, 1960. In one stunt, a contestant would win a prize if he could sustain a phone conversation with a puzzled stranger (picked at random from the phone directory) for several minutes without the other party hanging up. The series received Emmy nominations in 1955 and 1956. It finished #27 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1955-1956 season, then finished #21 for 1956-1957 and #29 for 1957-1958.
Episodes are available on Hulu - People are Funny.
Although the series ended on April 1, 1960, the network aired encores until April 13, 1961, making People Are Funny the first game show to air repeats. On March 24, 1984, a "reconstituted" version of People Are Funny with Flip Wilson as host returned to NBC where it was telecast until July 21.
Derek Roy was the host of a 1955 British version.
The series was satirized in the 1959 Warner Bros. cartoon, People Are Bunny. The Art Linkletter character was named Art Lamplighter, and the show was entitled People are Phoney, in which contestant Daffy Duck became one of his unfortunate victims.
People Are Funny is mentioned in the "Ladies Room" episode of the series Mad Men, and later a clip from the show is seen on a TV set in the background.