Art Linkletter was one of the all-time greatest interviewers… but don't lump him in with serious folks like Tim Russert or Barbara Walters. His interviews weren't intended to dig deep into the political world, elicit insight and a tear, or anything else quite so lofty. Linkletter interviewed folks with the primary goal of making us laugh.
4-year-old Ronnie Glahn shows Art Linkletter his idea of how bad guys look, April 1962 (AP Photo | David F. Smith)
Born July 17, 1912 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Linkletter (who moved to San Diego with his family when he was 5) would have turned 100 today. He died May 26, 2010 after what he himself asserted was a wonderful life: he had a successful writing career, enjoyed a happy marriage that lasted almost 75 years, and was the host of two long-running and popular television and radio shows. Those shows had casual formats that gave Linkletter plenty of room to chat with his guests, ad lib, and look for the laughs.
It all started with People Are Funny, which began on radio in 1942 and moved to television in 1954, running through 1960. On the show, Linkletter presented a variety of stunts, games and contests, often employing audience participation – and featuring impressive prizes.
Just a few years after People Are Funny's debut, Linkletter brought a second program to radio: House Party. The radio program debuted in 1947 and continued on both radio and TV for decades. Once again, it offered audience participation and a wide variety of content, from household hints to quizzes to celebrity visits – like this chat with Lucille Ball that led to a very funny skit.
One of the most popular segments on House Party was Linkletter's interviews with children, which came to be called "Kids Say the Darndest Things." Linkletter would ask children questions, and their responses kept the audience in stitches. The segment was such a hit that Linkletter published several books based on it, and it later became its own TV show, with Bill Cosby as host.
Written by Linnea Crowther