TV's 'People Are Funny' Host Art Linkletter Dies

The veteran radio and television personality was 97. He hosted two of the longest running shows on radio and TV — CBS's House Party and NBC's People Are Funny.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Art Linkletter has died. He was 97 years old. The television personality is perhaps best known for "Kids Say the Darndest Things," his interviews with children. That's also the title of one of Linkletter's many books.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Art Linkletter's interviews with children were priceless.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Art Linkletter's House Party")

Mr. ART LINKLETTER (TV Personality): Stanley Thomas(ph) what do you think you'll be when you grow up?

Mr. STANLEY THOMAS: A bus driver or a pilot.

Mr. LINKLETTER: A bus driver or a pilot. Well, suppose you're a pilot on a big airplane and suddenly all four engines stopped right away. What would you say?

Mr. THOMAS: Our father which art in heaven...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Linkletter treated every single child with respect. He'd listen intently, nod his head, and when children said something funny, which they almost always did, Linkletter would look straight at the camera with this delightful expression, as if to say, can you believe how smart this kid is?

Linkletter was born in Canada but raised in California by a preacher and his wife. After high school, he traveled all around the U.S., working as a meatpacker in Minneapolis and coupon clerk on Wall Street. In the early 1940's, he worked in radio and started a show called "People Are Funny." The vaudeville star Eddie Cantor called Linkletter the best ad-libber in radio.

Linkletter's casual, conversational style made him a natural on television, but it's his interviews with children that made him an icon.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Art Linkletter's House Party")

Mr. LINKLETTER: Would you like to be married?

Unidentified Child: Uh-uh.

Mr. LINKLETTER: Would you like to marry somebody famous? Suppose you could anybody famous, would you?

Unidentified Child: Uh-uh, because they're never home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLAIR: Art Linkletter, the man who lived to make people laugh, suffered many personal tragedies. Three of his children died, one in a car accident, another committed suicide. Ever the optimist, Linkletter's last book, his 28th, was called "How To Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life." It was published when he turned 94.

Art Linkletter died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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