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By Stephanie Funt

Stephanie Funt, age 16
    Editor's Note: When my daughter Stephanie was 16 she wrote a school essay for which the assignment title was 'My Inspiration.' When she showed it to me, I was impressed with the insight she had about Candid Camera and her famous grandpa. With her permission, we reprint it here.
–Peter Funt

    Few people are lucky enough to have someone who is a truly significant inspiration in their life. I am one of those lucky few. Though I have no memories of conversation with my grandfather, Allen Funt, it is his life story and the memories that my family passes to me that serve as inspiration.
    My grandfather had a near-fatal stroke when I was three years old, but I have some strong memories of him before he became so incapacitated. He lived another seven years, thanks to the caring perseverance of my father, though he could not communicate very well during that time. The fact that he lived so much longer than expected after the stroke is an inspiration.
    But it is the phenomenal history of his life that most inspires me. He served in World War II as the person who recorded soldiers’ messages to be sent home to their families. They were always given a practice, where the microphone was turned off, during which they typically recited their message smoothly and calmly. When they knew the microphone was on they usually became choked up and had trouble conveying their message. My grandfather came up with the idea of making them think their microphone was off during the practice, as he secretly recorded them. This was the beginning of what was first known as "Candid Microphone," a radio show, and later became "Candid Camera."
    These early programs were the original reality television, not like the extremist, demeaning shows that currently come to mind. One of the slogans of the show was, "catching people in the act of being themselves." This represented one of my grandfather’s best qualities: being a people watcher. Many say I take after him because I too love to watch and analyze people. The "gags," as we in the family call them, are never meant to ridicule anyone, only to show people a candid view of life. When my grandfather created the concept of his television program, it was unheard of. I am inspired by the fact that he never gave it up, and now the show has aired for over fifty years.
    He did many wonderful things with the show, like going to Russia during the Cold War and videotaping the Russians doing perfectly normal activities, like riding amusement park rides. Americans at the time saw Russians only as enemies, not as normal people who were just like them. This segment wasn’t even originally allowed to air because it was viewed as being too radical but it eventually was seen on national television.
Together on Allen's 75th birthday, when Stephie was one    My grandfather has other credits besides the show. He was very involved in charity work, which has remained important to his children and grandchildren. He created a project called Laughter Therapy, which provides seriously ill people with free videos of Candid Camera. The noted author and editor Norman Cousins, in his autobiography, and various psychological studies, have shown that laughter has an effect on healing.
    Candid Camera tapes are also used in several universities as tools to study human nature.
    My grandfather Allen has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. His achievements represent so much more than monetary success or fame; in my opinion, he really did make the world a better place. He inspired me to want to be someone who helps people, which is part of why I want to be a lawyer. He did things that were remarkably creative and radical for his time. What he did has had lasting value, and I know he has brought joy to many people all over the world. Just thinking of him reminds me to smile.

About Candid Camera | Peter Funt | Mayim Bialik
Candid Tricksters | Allen Funt
"Things My Father Taught Me" | Little Richard's 'Candid' Song
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