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SMILE! Candid Camera coming to Oakmont's Oaks Theater

| Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Peter Funt of 'Candid Camera'
Peter Funt of 'Candid Camera'

If the famous tagline “Smile, you're on ‘Candid Camera” has a ring of familiarity for you, here's some good news.

A live version of one of the pioneering shows in television history is coming to the stage of the Oaks Theater, Oakmont, at 8 p.m. Oct. 20.

“8 Decades of Smiles” is a blend of video clips and stage production hosted by Peter Funt, son of Allen Funt, who gave birth to the concept on radio in 1947 as “Candid Microphone” and then moved it to TV in 1948.

The format of the program featured footage taken by a hidden camera of everyday people caught in hoaxes devised by Allen Funt, the show's host.

Peter Funt has hosted more than 200 episodes of “Candid Camera” on television, initially as co-host with his dad.

“‘Candid Camera' is the only show in TV history to have produced new episodes in each of the last eight decades,” Peter Funt says.

This is the second season with the stage show and Oakmont is one of only 15 cities to land it.

“Between my dad and myself we've done just about every medium with Candid Camera, from radio to TV to movies to DVDs to books. A live stage show was the missing piece,” Funt says.

He has enjoyed a varied career as a show host, author, columnist, magazine editor, ABC News editor and reporter and currently president of the Laughter Therapy Foundation, a nonprofit started by his dad in 1982. Using the “Candid Camera” library, Laughter Therapy sends special videos, at no charge, to critically ill people throughout the U.A.

“Audiences seem to love the stage show because it's not a ‘documentary' or a ‘history lesson.' We try to make it a fast-paced multimedia presentation and that seems to click,” Funt says. “Unlike my dad, I really enjoy working with a live audience. The instant feedback after so many years on television is exciting. The show also gives me a chance to meet so many of the folks who have supported us over the years. It's a special treat.”

The audience spans several generations.

“Typically at the stage shows, we see a mix of older folks who have fond memories of my dad, along with younger people who might have first seen ‘Candid Camera' on TV Land a few years ago or currently watch our YouTube channel: ‘Candid Camera Classics,' ” he says. “Everyone sees things through the lens of their own experiences. Tell one of our younger viewers that the show was once presented in black and white and they're aghast.”

The stage version is a mix of live comedy and social commentary, Funt says, along with the very best clips from the “Candid Camera” and audience surprises. “There's no Q&A, since this is a fully-produced show, but I always stick around for questions when we're done,” he says.

Funt says that “Candid Camera” was the first show to hide cameras and, some say, the first so-called “reality” show.

“My dad didn't hit a single note week after week; rather, he sought to make ‘Candid Camera' a variety show of hidden-camera experiences. At its best, the show holds a mirror up to society, allowing us to, as Robert Burns said, ‘see ourselves as others see us.'”

Funt says he admired his father's remarkable creativity and ability to identify little things in our lives that, taken together, painted a larger picture of who we are. His dad's best advice: “Don't do anything with a stranger that you wouldn't want done to yourself.”

Peter Funt says he is looking forward to presenting the show in Oakmont. “My son Danny and my niece Katie Oxman, both of whom appeared regularly on the TV Land show, are part of our stage show,” he says. “Katie is a graduate of Point Park University and she's eager to see her friends and fans.”

Funt is working on a 70th anniversary special for 2018, as well as a theatrical movie.

“I don't think our impact on TV is nearly as important as our impact on education, business and health care. Our clips are used for research in all those areas,” he explains.

“Candid Camera” clips are employed in colleges and universities, such as Cornell and Stanford, to teach principles of sociology and psychology.

They are also used in business training and for research in customer service by companies such as Prudential and Franklin Templeton. The material is used by health care institutions for studying the benefits of laughter.

“We're not scientists, but we know that laughter is remarkably beneficial in reducing pain and speeding healing. Laughter Therapy tries to promote that,” Funt says.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune Review contributing writer.

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