Art Linkletter’s House Party, a bygone era?

Art Linkletter’s House Party aired on radio from 1945 to 1967 and on TV from 1952 to 1970. It included a popular reoccurring interview segment with young children called Kids Say the Darndest Things. Accounts vary, but the kids were between 3- and 10-years-old.

That montage is from Bill Cosby’s copycat (homage?) show, Kids Say the Darndest Things, which aired from 1998 to 2000.

Why did Cosby’s version of the show last just 3 years? I mean, besides not being a violence-driven crime and hospital drama.

Could this type of show be easily produced today, and survive? I’m wondering if the average spontaneous comment elicited from a child would be a little too grown up, containing content or word choices gleaned from parents or TV that would take the luster off the perceived innocence of childhood.

I’m still taken aback remembering what a college friend told me about his time working in a daycare facility in the 1990s — that many young kids have filthy mouths, spewing all manner of adult content and attempting to incorporate it into their pretend play… having no clear understanding of the line between youth and adult behavior (and by adult I also mean x-rated behavior). I’ve not seen that myself, but then I don’t work in a daycare facility serving a cross section of the general public.

Am I too down on modern times? Maybe innocence didn’t exist so much in Linkletter’s time. Take one of the children’s comments, summed up as:

Q: What does Dad do to help Mom at home?
A: He makes cocktails.

Change the child’s response to a less dated, less amusing word choice, “He drinks beer,” and it becomes a sad commentary about society. Consider that Linkletter (see below) had an idea of how the kids would react and that he probably vetted out the most inappropriate responses (it was a live daytime show after all, where you couldn’t even utter the word “pregnant”).

An interesting read is the essay, Our Fifteen Minutes of Fame on Art Linkletter’s House Party. Today, with the advent of so-called reality TV, producers would probably script lines and heavily steer the children’s responses. But in Linkletter’s time, the essay informs us, the kids were simply asked the same questions several times prior to a live show, allowing Linkletter to craft cohesive comedic segments using genuine responses. Though, he could still be thrown off-guard by an occasional unexpected response.

Whoops, I’m writing this as I go along. Here’s one more set of clips, an entire unedited live interview with kids, complete with beer, not cocktails. It’s The Jack Benny Program with an appearance by Linkletter.

That bit from Mr. Finque in the last clip is a running joke about a belligerent audience member.

The show was funny to be sure, but watching these clips can stir up a variety of other thoughts, such as gender stereotypes. Did anything catch your eye?


2 Responses to “Art Linkletter’s House Party, a bygone era?”

  1. Auntie M says:

    OMG! I watched Linkletter when I was a teenager. The kids’ interview was the best part of his show. You could tell that most of the children’s answers were previewed, but every so often the kids slipped in an unexpected zinger. The most common age was four. Like Little Miss, one was never certain what was going to come out of their mouths.

    This was the 50′s of course, so there was a veneer of innocence in the culture. Most of us knew what was appropriate to say, or not. This rubbed off on those four-year-olds. Linkletter knew to choose families who kept to the cultural norm. Our society is awash in rude language and behavior now. But, I think there are still some of those families who try to shield their children from the ruder, cruder language and behavior of present-day culture.

    February 27th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  2. Roshan L. Sharma says:

    I was a contestant during a 1954 Art Linkletter House Party on a summer Friday. I was declared a winner as the ‘Visitor from the Farthest Land’ not only for the day but also for the whole week and won prizes. My segment was at least 5 minutes. Can I procure a DD copy of my segment?

    August 8th, 2009 at 10:09 am