[Return Home]
[Up Next]
[About Candid Camera]
[Book Peter Funt]
[Funt Column]
[Laughter Therapy]
[Contact Us]

TV Funnyman Durward Kirby Dies


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) March 16, 2000 - Versatile TV funnyman Durward Kirby, who for years played second banana on ``The Garry Moore Show'' and for a time was co-host of ``Candid Camera,'' has died at age 88.

Kirby died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Shell Pointe Village Pavillion, a nursing home in Fort Myers in southwest Florida, his son, Randall Kirby, said Thursday.

Starting out in radio in the Midwest, the tall (6-foot-4), blond Kirby teamed up with Moore off and on for 30 years, serving as announcer and performer on Moore's early, live ``The Garry Moore Show'' on CBS-TV in 1950-51 and the highly successful variety show of the same name that ran from 1958-64 and 1966-67.

The variety show was known for making a star of Carol Burnett and for its nostalgia segments, called ``That Wonderful Year.''

Kirby was co-host of ``Candid Camera'' from 1961-66. The show created by Allen Funt, which secretly filmed unsuspecting citizens in amusing situations, had at one point been a segment of ``The Garry Moore Show.'' Kirby occasionally took part in the pranks.

Kirby could be sketch actor, singer, dancer and with ease switch from slapstick to suave sales pitches for a sponsor's product. He became so well-known to TV viewers that the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons had a plotline about the search for ``Kirward Derby,'' which could make its wearer the smartest man in the world.

Critic John Crosby called him ``one of the most versatile muggers and comedians on the air.''

``Growing up with him was a lot of fun, a lot of good times, parties, celebrities and laughter,'' Randall Kirby said Thursday. ``He was a funny guy, funnier than most people realized. He could hang in there with the best of them.''

In a 1960s interview, Kirby said: ``I've done just about everything in broadcasting - covered news, special events, disasters, sports, political conventions. I've had a news commentary show, done interviews, audience participation shows, sold products.''

In television, he explained, ``the audience must accept you as a human being before it can accept you as a star, a comedian, an announcer or whatever.'' Kirby wrote three books: ``My Life, Those Wonderful Years,'' ``Bits and Pieces of This and That'' and a children's book called ``Dooley Wilson.''

Legendary broadcaster Arthur Godfrey once told Randall Kirby that his father was only guy in show business with whom everyone could get along, the son said.

Born in Covington, Ky., Kirby was at Purdue University, studying to be an aeronautical engineer, when he walked past the campus radio station one day and was waylaid to pinch-hit as an announcer.

He worked in radio in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Chicago and served in World War II before beginning his television career in New York shortly after the war.

In addition to Randall, of Studio City, Calif., survivors include son Dennis, of Ossining, N.Y., and three grandsons. His wife, Mary Paxton, died in 1994.

His son recalled the ``loose and wild'' days of early television and the pranks that stagehands would play. One time, his father was doing a detergent commercial and was supposed to pick up a gigantic box as a prop. The crew filled it with cement and waited.

Kirby picked it up anyway, amazing the stagehands.

``He had a charmed life,'' Kirby said. ``He accomplished many things.''

AP-NY-03-16-00 1429EST

 Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

Candid Camera  •  PO Box 827  •  Monterey, CA 93942