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Smile My Ass

Tuesday, October 06, 2015 - 06:00 PM

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Candid Camera is one of the most original – and one of the most mischievous – TV shows of all time.  Admirers hailed its creator Allen Funt as a poet of the everyday.  Critics denounced him as a Peeping Tom.  Funt sought to capture people at their most unguarded, their most spontaneous, their most natural.  And he did. But as the show succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself.  Looking back at the show now, a half century later, it’s hard NOT to see so many of our preoccupations – privacy, propriety, publicity, authenticity – through a funhouse mirror, darkly.

Reported by Latif Nasser. Produced by Matt Kielty. 


Special Thanks to: Bertram van Munster, Fred Nadis, Alexa Conway, the Eastern Airlines Employee Association and Eastern Airlines Radio, Rebecca Lemov, Anna McCarthy, Jill Lepore, Cullie Bogacki Willis III, Barbara Titus and the Funt family. 



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Comments [28]


I'm surprised that nobody mentioned The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Apr. 05 2017 09:17 PM
mike from keene, nh

love it. very interesting.

Jul. 09 2016 04:18 PM


Jan. 27 2016 02:27 PM

I love the way people during that error. It sounds beautiful :)

Jan. 27 2016 02:26 PM
Deb from New York

Growing up in the 60s, my parents just loved this show and would retell their favorite episodes regularly. I found this backstory very interesting and thought about reactions to perceived invasions of privacy 60 years ago and how different attitudes about this are today.

Btw, their favorite episode by far was the day they closed down the state of Delaware.

Dec. 24 2015 06:02 PM
bubble boy from Sacramento California

thx bby

Dec. 09 2015 03:47 PM
Potato from pizzahut


Dec. 01 2015 10:32 AM
Jim Zack

I realize that the story of the hijacking may have left a lot of you wondering about the outcome of the "adventure." My mother, father, younger brother and I, along with the Funt family and nearly 100 other passengers were on the ill-fated flight to Havana. To hear a fresh-off-the-tarmac account of the events that transpired, including some great beyond-the-grave anecdotes from my father, listen to the 13 minute audio for this YouTube video, which was recorded by my energetic 68-years-young grandmother who had the tape recorder cued and ready to roll when we finally showed up at her Miami Beach apartment at 2:30am, 15 hours later than expected.

Nov. 09 2015 09:36 PM

I enjoyed the first half of this episode, but the story about the hijacking left me filled with - to use a favorite word of Jad's - doubt. I'm sure reporter Latif Nasser must of been aware that Allen Funt's wrote about this experience for the AP the very next day. In his account there are none of the histrionics included in this episode. Of all shows, RadioLab has proven it understands the nuances of how fallible memories are, and how prone to exaggeration over time. To build its conclusion around a hyperbolic account of all the passengers being angry at Funt and spewing invective at him as they filed off the plane, one-by-one, was quite a letdown. For one, why would the Funts, who were sitting in first class, have stayed in their seats as the rest of the passengers walked off the plane before them? I know I've never gotten off a plane before someone in First Class.

Reading Funt's AP story and the Snopes page (which another commenter links to above), it seems more likely than not that Latif and RadioLab chose the scenic mountain over the dusty molehill because it served their storytelling purposes. But I don't think it stands up to doubt. Even if Funt's families recollections (all these years later) were still to be included, it would have been nice to hear Jad or Robert weigh in with a hint of skepticism about that ready-for-the-movies final scene. If I had to place a bet, I'd say that the very title of this episode, taken from one of those remembered "comments", probably was never even uttered.

Oct. 27 2015 07:39 AM


Oct. 26 2015 09:16 AM

OK, that headline wins a prize.

Oct. 13 2015 11:45 PM
Carol from Seattle

"What is real?" said the Velveteen Rabbit. Once, mentally healthy people thought they knew. You've located the probable beginnings of the blurring of reality in the minds of ordinary people which led to a cultural transformation. Did we really land on the moon? Was 9-11 staged? Is Michelle Obama a man? A fascinating and enjoyable podcast which certainly has philosophical implications.

Oct. 13 2015 05:06 PM
Chris Weitz

Thanks for this episode. I had lovely memories of watching Candid Camera as a child, and was put in mind of just how grotesque and unpleasant a show it actually was.

Oct. 12 2015 02:37 PM
Kyle Hayes from Los Angeles, CA

Does anyone know what/who the arpeggiated musical sequence towards the end of the show is from? I love the sound of it.

Another awesome episode.

Oct. 12 2015 11:11 AM
Matthew from Cincinnati

This episode was very interesting and thought provoking. In particular, the comparison of Funt's situation on the plane with our own situation today (surrounded by a ubiquity of cameras and our own "shows"). I think it raised interesting epistemic issues. Inspired by this podcast, I've written about them here:

Oct. 11 2015 04:57 PM

I also felt rather cliff-hung, so I looked up the story about the hijacking, and Snopes has some recollections that are slightly different than the ones in this episode, which appear basically correct, but perhaps just a little embellished.

Oct. 09 2015 06:09 PM
David from Perkiomenville

My wife told me to listen to this episode, because she thought it was pretty good. She told me to go to the radiolab website and click on the episode titled "Smile My Ass" and that it would play on the computer. She's out back now, working in the barn on a wood project for the kids.

Oct. 09 2015 04:30 PM

I found this to be a particularly entertaining episode, and the story about the hijacking left me wanting to share the story. The episode's conclusion, however, was a desperate search for profundity where none existed: We're all Allan Funting ourselves with Facebook? Hardly. Candid Camera featured completely spontaneous responses to unexpected situations. Facebook and other social networking tools are quite the opposite: Self-created, narcissistic pleas for attention, as are today's "reality" television shows. IMO, it's insulting to Funt and the Candid Camera staff to connect them to today's "Look at me!" vibe.

Oct. 09 2015 12:24 PM
Sally from Cape Town, South Africa, Africa

I really enjoyed this fascinating episode.
But I have a gripe about the call for support at the beginning of the episode. Not that you asked for money, but that Robert used as one of the reasons for needing money 'so that we can do more great episodes like the one where we sent a reporter to "Africa"' (paraphrasing).

As a South African, and African. I was really disappointed that Robert used the name of the continent instead of the country. For The Rhino hunter story Simon Adler did not just 'go to Africa' he particularly went to Namibia. A country in Southern Africa.

I doubt that if Simon had gone to Bolivia for a story Robert would have said 'we sent a reporter to 'South America' or if he'd gone to Ukraine it would have just been referred to as 'Europe'. I realise not many people know where Namibia is but, he could have just said 'Namibia, in Southern Africa' if more geographical information was needed.

So since this statement was part of a pledge drive I am issuing a pledge. If Robert would make a brief statement to the fact that Simon went to Namibia, in Africa, rather than the continent as a whole, I'll send you R500 (about 13USD, sorry it's not more but the exchange rate's not so favourable to us South Africans at the moment).

Keep up the great work. I really enjoyed the Namibian Rhino hunting episode. It made me re-think my opinions on big game hunting.


Cape Town
South Africa

Oct. 09 2015 04:20 AM
Martha from Manhattan

Loved this, Cuba story is amazing. I do hope this will be taken as constructive criticism: it was like grating to like hear the young producer saying, "like" like every other word. (And yes, I'm an old, but not that old, 40s.)

Oct. 08 2015 01:47 PM
Beth Levy from Israel

As usual, I love listening to your stories. You get right into my head and leave me gasping for more :)

Oct. 08 2015 01:01 AM
Peter Elliott from Texas

I appreciated the story very much; however, I felt rather cliff-hung about the untold happenings in Cuba. Fortunately, the Ocala Star-Banner explained the rest of the story:,4872174&hl=en

Oct. 07 2015 01:56 PM
marla from washington

I used to watch this show ALL THE TIME. When things would happen to me out in the world that were frustrating or annoying, my first instinct would be to react, my second, more immediate, to look for the camera. It saved me a lot of ridiculously wasted energy.

Oct. 07 2015 12:52 PM
Pete from Sweden

The clip from the discussion with then woman on candid radio is very interesting. A perfect explanation of why we use social media. Does anyone have a link to it ?

Oct. 07 2015 08:00 AM
Morgan Andrews from Philadelphia

Guys, you left us on the Tarmac in Havana in the custody of Cuban military! What happened next? To the passengers? The crew? To Funt and his family? And to Candid Canera itself?

Oct. 07 2015 07:33 AM
mark ifi


Oct. 07 2015 04:14 AM

Love you guys but this was easily the worst radiolab I've heard : /

Oct. 06 2015 11:40 PM
Ben from Princeton, NJ

Great work. Amazed no one has gone back to annoint Funt as the father of reality TV. From studying candid camera classics in psych 101 in college, to being a survivor fan today I never made the connection myself.

Oct. 06 2015 09:22 PM

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