A dog joins a conga line. Kamikaze fish take revenge on fishermen. Tots wear their food. A horse collapses under the weight of a portly woman. Hilarious pictures from real life, captured on tape by America's growing army of camcorder owners, were the subject of this first surprise hit of the 1990s. The premise was extremely simple. Viewers were invited to send in their tapes, from which the funniest short segments were shown. The studio audience voted for the best in each show: first prize took away $10,000, second prize $3,000, and third prize $2,000. Several times each season a grand prize of $100,000 was offered, and viewers at home could vote by a special 900 number (more than 250,000 called in the first competition).
Comedian Bob Saget
hosted the fast-paced proceedings with inane jokes, but the videos were the stars. Most were unintended slapstick, such as people falling down or getting hit with objects (Saget had to constantly assure viewers that "no one was hurt" - even that poor horse). There was certainly no lack of material. A groom gallantly picked up his bride and both fell over. A man stepped into a portable toilet which was promptly blown away by a gust of wind. And perhaps best - a crocodile unmistakably expressed his dislike of camcorders.
First seen as a special telecast in November 1989.America's Funniest People Hosts: David Coulier, Arleen Sorkin, Tawny KitaenTV is famous for immediately cloning its hits, and this cheerful low-budget series did just that for ABC's surprise sensation America's Funniest Home Videos. It followed the earlier show on the schedule, serving as the second half of an ABC "videos" hour on Sunday night. There were some differences between the two shows. On Videos, the clips were shot by amateurs, and in most cases supposedly not staged. On People, sequences were deliberately staged, as ordinary people performed gags and stunts for the camera. Some of the clips were shot by amateurs and others by the show's own crews. The same prize structure as on Videos was used, $10,000 for first prize each week, $3,000 for second, and $2,000 for third.
The gags were certainly high class. Four businessmen painted their bellies with eyes and mouths, placed big hats over the top half of their bodies, and "whistled" with their belly buttons; a man used a vacuum cleaner to form bizarre shapes with his mouth; and kids blurted out variations on jokes far older than they were ("Why did the chicken cross the playground?....To get to the other slide!"). Critics groaned, but they were drowned out by the audience laughter.br
In the fall of 1993 the program was renamed The New America's Funniest People and a guest co-host from a different ABC show joined David and Tawny each week, all to no particular effect.