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Allen Funt

FUNT, ALLEN (1914–1999), U.S. radio and television personality. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Funt studied at Pratt Institute before earning a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Cornell University. While working at an advertising agency, he became an idea man who dreamed up gimmicks for radio programs. In World War II he used his radio experience in the Army Signal Corps, learning to handle a portable wire recorder, predecessor of the tape recorder, and began to experiment with concealment techniques. After the war, Funt created Candid Microphone, which had its premiere on the ABC radio network in 1947, using hidden microphones to snare the unwary. The format, though embarrassing to many of the prey, proved highly popular. The program moved to television in 1948 and was renamed Candid Camera a year later. As creator, producer, director, and editor of Candid Camera, Funt was part humorist, part psychologist, and part con artist, catching unsuspecting people in "the act of being themselves," as he put it. In a typical stunt, passers-by were startled by a talking mailbox or by a hand reaching out of a sewer grating, angling for a hat just out of reach. In New York, many people just handed the hat to the hand and walked on. Funt, who sometimes participated in disguise as a dentist or garage mechanic, ended the ploy by saying "Smile! You're on Candid Camera."

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.