Linkletter, Art (1912—)

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Linkletter, Art (1912—)

For more than sixty years, Art Linkletter has performed before radio microphones and television cameras, first becoming widely known for two long-running shows: House Party, on CBS TV and radio for 25 years, and People Are Funny, on NBC TV and radio for 19 years. During his career he has received four Emmy nominations and two Emmy Awards. His book, Kids Say the Darndest Things, remained number one on the non-fiction best-seller list for two consecutive years and is one of the top fourteen best sellers in American publishing history.

Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, Linkletter graduated from San Diego State College in 1934 and became program director of local radio station KGB. In 1935 he directed radio activities for the California International Exposition, followed by similar positions with the Texas Centennial Exposition (1936), and the San Francisco World's Fair (1937-39). From 1940-55, he was president of Linkletter Productions, writing, producing, and starring in West Coast radio shows such as House Party and What's Doin', Ladies?

Art Linkletter's House Party, which became television's longest-running daytime variety show, began on radio in 1944, originating from the West Coast. In 1952 his blend of audience participation and easy-going conversation made a smooth transition to television, where it remained a popular fixture until 1969. Audiences looked forward to a special daily feature of the show when Art interviewed four young school children, who sat on a raised platform. He had a talent for eliciting comical reactions and humorous remarks from the kids, providing material for his series of books, Kids Say the Darndest Things.

In 1954 Art began hosting television's People Are Funny, one of the earliest audience participation quiz shows. Contestants were chosen from the studio audience and involved in stunts to prove that "people are funny." The stunts were designed to test such things as memory, level of greed, or decision-making, with contestants being doused with water or hit with pies as penalties. Others would be asked to complete a task during the following week, tasks such as trying to cash a check written on a forty-pound watermelon, and report back to the results. A computer-dating segment was added to the show during the 1956-57 season: a couple matched by a Univac computer became acquainted while answering questions in a quiz-show format.

In 1965 Art became the host of Hollywood Talent Scouts, a variety show featuring young unknowns who had been discovered by celebrities. Tom Smothers introduced a young comedian named Pat Paulsen (who later worked on the Smothers Brothers show); Bob Crane presented a singer named Marilyn McCoo (later to become lead singer with the Fifth Dimension); and Carl Reiner brought along a writer from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Garry Marshall, to try his luck as a stand-up comic. Marshall later became producer of two of television's brightest sitcoms, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

Linkletter has not confined his talents to show business; he has become well known in the world of business, serving as CEO of Linkletter Enterprises and on the boards of directors of MGM, Western Air Lines, and Kaiser Hospitals, to name a few. In addition, his book, Old Age Is Not for Sissies, became a national bestseller, and he frequently appears on the public speaking circuit to discuss the foibles of old age as well as the darn things kids say.

—Benjamin Griffith

Further Reading:

Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present. New York, Ballantine, 1981.

Lackmann, Ron. Same Time…Same Station: An A-Z Guide to Radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern. New York, Facts on File, 1996

McNeil, Alex. Total Television: A Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present.