People are Funny is a long-running American radio and television game show, created by John Guedel (1913–2001) that remained popular throughout the 1940s. The program's stunts and audience participation were calculated to reveal the humorous side of human nature. After contestants were sent from the studio to perform a task in public, the audience was told how the contestant was being double-crossed.
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 $1000 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 Read appeared as Guedel, with Linkletter and Frances Langford portraying themselves. Also in the cast were Jack Haley, Helen Walker, Ozzie Nelson and Rudy Vallee. The radio series moved to CBS from 1951–54, returning to NBC from 1954–60.
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.
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.
Art Baker (1942–43)
Art Linkletter (1943–60)
Flip Wilson (1984)
Running time 30 Minutes
Original channel NBC
CBS (Radio, 1951–54)
Original run April 10, 1942 – July 21, 1984