Smile, you're on Candid Camera!

Born on September 16, 1914 in New York, New York, Allen Funt not only created a genre of television, but a place in all of our hearts. The creative genious behind the TV hit, Candid Camera, and the now unavoidable "Reality TV" genre, Funt worked his way through life, creating a wonderfully hilarious show, in a very serious environment.

Funt became enamoured with people's reactions while he was working on his Bachelor of Arts degree at Cornell University. There, he took an interest in psychological experiments that measured peoples reactions to certain stimuli, whether funny, scary, or whatever. After graduating Cornell, Funt worked as an assistant to an Eleanor Roosevelt radio show. However, he left that job and enlisted into the army for World War II. There, he served in the Army Signal Corps and designed an outline for what would become his breakthrough show.

In 1947, Candid Microphone made its appearance on ABC radio. It would be very similar to the Candid Camera we all know and love, save it was only sound bites of people. He'd trap people in various situations and play pranks on them. Not mean pranks, like they open a door and a bucket of paint falls on their heads, but lighthearted ones, like vending machines that would talk back to people, or women asking men for help with their cars, only their cars had no engines. That sort of stuff.

In the following year, Candid Microphone was put on television, and renamed Candid Camera. TV was the best medium for Funt's idea, as it caught the complete expression of the "victims" of his pranks. In 1960 it was picked up by CBS, where it has stayed since. A syndicated version of the show appeared in 1974. It lasted 4 years. However, a series of specials were made in 1989 and 1990, and in 1991, it reappeared on CBS television. I'm not too sure how long the show lasted on CBS. trainman informs me that the show can currently be found on the American cable channel, Pax

Funt settled on the Monterey Peninsula in 1978, but did not stop being active. He sponsored fundraisers to support local schools, donated Candid Camera tapes to hospitals dealing with the terminally ill and started the Laughter Therapy Foundation. He was a strong believer in the healing power of laughter and tried to help out as much as he could. On September 5, 1999 he, unfortunately, passed on due to a stroke. Allen Funt was 84, and days shy of his 85th birthday. As part of his will, he donated the entire Candid Camera film library to Cornell University. Candid Camera is currently being produced by Allen's son, Peter Funt. The Laughter Therapy Foundation lives on, and is still accepting donations to give more Candid Camera tapes to hospitals to help ease the pain of terminally ill patients. The address to pledge to the Laughter Therapy Foundation is: Laughter Therapy, Box 827, Monterey, CA 93942.


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