A Candidly Good Time

Candid Camera brings stage show and smiles to NYCB Theatre

Candid Camera‘s Peter Funt

Hidden camera shows have become a notable part of the global TV landscape, spawning various iterations across different networks and countries. While the format of each show varies slightly—some target celebrities, others include death-defying tricks and others test the limits of fear—all of them trace their roots back to a common ancestor: Candid Camera, the hidden camera show that tags itself as “catching Americans in the act of being themselves.”

The show’s catchphrase “Smile, You’re On Candid Camera,” has been ringing through the ears of audiences for decades, and this month will resonate through the NYCB Theatre at Westbury during Candid Camera’s stage show on Jan. 12. Hosted by Candid Camera’s Peter Funt, son of original host and founder Allen Funt, the stage show will be a multimedia experience, a blend of the funniest Candid clips, as well as live stage comedy, current social observations and music.

“It’s fast paced and a great experience whether you’re a fan or not,” said Funt. “It crosses the generations and you don’t need much background to enjoy the show.”

Allen Funt started Candid Camera as a radio show in 1947, before it debuted on ABC Television in 1948. It met with widespread success, becoming a feature on The Tonight Show and soon being produced for weekly syndication. The show also found a home across other platforms; Allen Funt authored a Candid Kids book, movies were produced and DVDs were made.

But Candid Camera is more than just entertainment; each episode serves as a study in sociology. Through humorous scenarios, the show illustrates basic themes and principles in psychology—how do people react when they get a parking ticket in their own driveway or the building they just visited disappears or the elevator moves sideways instead of up and down? The show offers a glimpse into the human condition, so much so that clips from Candid Camera are often used for research and studied in college classrooms.

One of their most famous sequences, “Face The Rear,” offers insight into group pressure and conformity. The clip from 1962 explores what happens when a group of Candid Camera actors enters an elevator and faces the back wall, instead of the door. In every case, the other person in the elevator complied with the group and ended up turning whichever way the group did.

“That type of group pressure is enormous; it’s almost impossible to have the willpower to resist that,” Funt said. “That [clip] is explained for hours in college classrooms to this day. Not many entertainment television shows can make the claim they’re also used in research and studies, and we’re very proud of that.”

While the show has changed in small ways—sequences are a bit shorter now and more reactions are shown—the “secret sauce,” as Funt referred to it, hasn’t changed.

“The essence has remained the same. The hairstyles and clothing are different, and maybe the pace of life is a little different, but human nature is not,” he said. “It’s essentially still the same and we’ve proved that time after time.”

And despite living in the Information Age, Funt says that people today are easier to fool than ever before.

“Multitasking is such a big part of our lives, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t doing two things at once and that makes it easier to step in and trick people in some way,” Funt said. “The other thing is we have such incredible technology for real, whether it’s cell phones or Google Home or self-driving cars. If the people from Candid Camera come up with some fake technology, people will believe anything nowadays. In my dad’s day they’d be suspicious.”

This year marks Candid Camera’s 70th anniversary, and to celebrate, the Candid Camera team is working on both a network TV anniversary special and theatrical movie about Allen Funt and the early years of the show. They’re also working on the next version of the series, which last found a home on TV Land with Funt cohosting with actress Mayim Bialik.
But for now, Funt is looking forward to greeting audiences at the upcoming stage show at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, a venue that has special meaning to him and his family since Candid Camera began in New York, with many sequences shot on Long Island.

“The most appreciative audience we had was in the tristate area right around New York, and particularly in Westchester and Long Island,” Funt said, “I am very eager to get back and do this show in Westbury—it’s a terrific venue and we’re looking forward to meeting and greeting as many folks as we can from across the generations. Get ready for a good time.”

For more information about the stage show, visit www.thetheatreatwestbury.com.

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Betsy Abraham
Betsy Abraham is senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times and Massapequa Observer. She also writes for Long Island Weekly.

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