"Smile, you're on 'Candid Camera'!"
No matter how many times he's uttered those words, "Candid Camera" host Peter Funt said, they still make him grin. He's helped helm the seminal hidden camera show since the 1980s.
"Whatever you do for a living, whether it's play baseball ... or slice meat in a deli, if you like what you're doing, you're lucky," said Funt, whose father, original "Candid Camera" host Allen Hunt, created the television show in 1948. "If it's something that makes people smile you're even luckier."
Peter Funt will share stories from behind the scenes of "Candid Camera" -- and screen some of his favorite funny clips from the show -- in "Candid Camera: Eight Decades of Smiles," July 11 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. He'll also invite audience members on stage to test their trivia knowledge for prizes.
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"It's not so much nostalgia as it is an atomic blast from eight decades of the show," explained Funt, who lives on the Monterey Peninsula.
Proceeds from "Candid Camera: Eight Decades of Smiles" benefit the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
As generations of television watchers know, "Candid Camera" uses a basic but effective formula: Ordinary people are put in extraordinary situations, and their reactions are secretly captured on camera.
A typical scenario might involve something as simple as parking a car, filling up at a gas station or ordering food at a restaurant. Like classic sitcom "Seinfeld," Funt joked, it's a "show about nothing."
Funt made his "Candid Camera" debut at age 3, when his father sent him out on the streets of New York City with a shoe-shine kit and told him to charge $10 per shoe -- then a princely amount. He didn't get many takers.
Funt said he's been involved in the show at "almost every stage of my life."
When he was 15, for instance, he took part in an elaborate set-up in which a room was turned literally upside down -- with furniture bolted to the ceiling and lighting fixtures attached to the floor.
"They needed someone small enough, nimble enough and, let's face it, foolish enough to hang out in this chair upside down on the ceiling," he explained.
Even then, "I was always wondering what it would be like to host the show like my dad," Funt said. "I definitely wanted to follow in his footsteps."
Funt didn't realize that dream immediately.
Instead, he studied mass communication and journalism at the University of Denver, graduating in 1969. He then spent a decade working in radio and print media.
Funt came aboard as "Candid Camera" co-host in 1987, taking over full-time after his father suffered a debilitating stroke in 1993. (Allen Funt died in 1999 at age 84.)
Peter Funt has hosted various versions of the show since then, sharing hosting duties with the likes of Suzanne Somers and Dina Eastwood.
Like his father before him, he also serves as president of the nonprofit Laughter Therapy Foundation, which sends "Candid Camera" videos to the critically ill free of charge.
Funt and co-host Mayim Bialik, of "Blossom" and "The Big Bang Theory" fame, wrapped up a 10-episode season of "Candid Camera" on TV Land in 2014.
A new version of the show, this one centered around the 2016 presidential election season, is in planning stages, Funt said, although he declined to share details.
Over the decades, "Candid Camera" has spawned many imitators, including "Punk'd," "The Jamie Kennedy Experience" and "Girls Behaving Badly." Two new series -- ABC Family's "Freak Out" and TBS's "Deal With It" -- play with the hidden camera format.
"It seemed to me that many of those derivative shows set out to prove that people are idiots," Funt said, adding that "Candid Camera" was never meant to be cruel or mean-spirited. "We set out to ... show that people are good sports."
"For our money, if it doesn't make people happy, if it doesn't make people light up when we say 'Smile, you're on "Candid Camera," ' then it's a failure for us," he added. "We haven't done what we set out to do."
Funt acknowledged that he might not fare so well if the tables were turned.
"I do sometimes worry that, if caught or confronted with some of the things we confront people with, I would not be as gracious or as quiet or as kind as most people are," he said with a chuckle.
"Candid Camera: Eight Decades of Smiles"
7 p.m. July 11
Clark Center for the Performing Arts, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande
$30 to $45
489-9444 or www.clarkcenter.org