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In June 2012 former NYC based kids TV host/performer Chuck McCann will be selling his new book The Let's Have Fun Scrapbook: My Life In The Wacky World Of Live Television.
To help promote this new manuscript I'm reprinting my article from The NYC Kids Shows Round Up section that looks back at Let's Have Fun's history and to give some extra insight into it's success as one of NYC's most popular and enduring kid's comedy variety programs.
Let's Have Fun
Following the success of his weekday afternoon film comedy wrap around show Laurel & Hardy & Chuck, Chuck McCann created and hosted his own comedy/variety TV show that would utilize his talents as a comic / character actor, mimic, puppeteer, song and dance man, pantomimist and special effects expert.The station execs at Channel 11 agreed with this concept after seeing that they needed a show for their Sunday morning schedule. They gave the green light for Let's Have Fun, the series debuted on Sunday, September 18, 1960.
Chuck McCann and his head puppeteer/puppet-maker and comedy assistant Paul Ashley created and performed a series of comedy skits featuring Mr. Ashley's puppets and the pair's live comedic characters that were a combination of farce, political and entertainment satire, sight gags, slapstick and pathos set against the backdrop of a television studio called The Little Little Theater.
The skits were presented around reruns of the Laurel & Hardy, Three Stooges, Al Christie and Edgar Kennedy film comedies, Popeye and Bozo TV cartoons and episodes of The Adventures of Superman.
A series of film comedies featuring a pair chimps dressed as private detectives lip syncing to human voices were also screened.
The show became a hit with parents and kids, soon more film series were added to the show like the Universal and Republic movie serials, Fleischer Superman cartoons, A&C TV shows and episodes of Mack & Myer For Hire became a part of Let's Have Fun's format.
the 1962 NYC newspaper strike, the heads of WPIX and the New York
Daily News (which owned Channel 11 at the time) asked McCann to
read the comics to the kids on the air but without playing any of his
The character became a hit with viewers and soon Chuck began to perform other sketches, where he played Dick Tracy, Dondi and Ace Jackson (a parody of high flying hero Smilin' Jack) and Dragon Lady's Mama, an original character that parodied the villainess from Terry & The Pirates.
Guest performers and personalities like Cartoonist Al Kilgore and the trainer and owner of Lassie Rudd Weatherwax also appeared on the show.
Unfortunately, Let's Have Fun soon felt prey to creative interference from the station management. Chuck And Paul tried to fight off the interference from the WPIX execs but to no avail.
Following the Sunday, August 15, 1965 broadcast the duo left the series and Captain Jack McCarthy hosted the show for the remainder of the summer, 1965 season.
On Sunday morning September 5,1965 Let's Have Fun began taping in color and a new host was found for the show, Terry Bennett, a veteran performer from Vaudeville and nightclubs.
Bennett was no stranger to kid's TV for he had hosted Jabberwocky's Place on WBKB TV 7, the Chicago, Ill. ABC network affiliate back in the late 1950's prior to joining the production staff of The Clay Cole Show at WPIX.
Changing the show's back drop to The FunFair and taking on the guise of the FunFair's owner and ringmaster, Bennett engaged his viewers in craft making, hobby tips, informational segments, and utilized his talents as a ventriloquist as he tried to suppress the antics of his puppet pals Red Flannels, Rusty Hinges, Dinky Duck (not to be confused with the Terrytunes movie cartoon character), The Dog, and The Man.
Bennett would also appear as Victor Villain, a sneaky fink who tried to take control of The FunFair.
The show continued to have many guests including an expert on UFO's and Buster Crabbe (the movies' Flash Gordon) and it also reran the Universal movie serials and Popeye, Three Stooges, etc.
Bennett left the show in the fall of 1966 and Hank Stohl become the show's fourth host. Working against the familiar backdrop of the living room of his private home, Stohl engaged his viewers in informational segments along with the antics of the Tom Tichenor Puppets and kid actor Robert Broderick between reruns of Popeye cartoons.
Stohl sensed that the station execs at WPIX were going to eliminate the kid's TV hosts and screen the films without them so he left Channel 11 for other venues.
Bill Biery, who was still appearing as Beachcomber Bill on The Bill Biery Show at WPIX 11 took over the hosting duties of LHF in the fall of 1966.
Continuing with the backdrop of Mr. Stohl's living room, Biery MC'd the show as himself not as Beachcomber Bill. He would perform comedy skits with Mr. Broderick, the Tom Tichenor Puppets and with Doakey the Clown (played by my dear friend and children's TV entertainer Ed Alberian) for most of the 1966-1967 season.
Eventually the show's format changed and Biery returned to play his Beachcomber Bill character on a program where kids came to the studio and celebrated their birthdays with games, craft making, hobbies, and comedy skits performed by Mr. Biery. The show also featured informational segments, interviews with guest personalities and kids.
Biery left the show in the fall of 1967 and Scoey Mitchell became the show's seventh and last host/performer on Sunday morning September 12, 1967.
Set in an inner city fire station and taking on the guise of gentle, soft spoken and articulate Fireman Frank, Mitchell engaged his viewers and studio audience with games, craft making, hobbies, informational segments and interviews with guest performers and kids in the studio.He would also screen films on the show but Mitchell's version of Let's Have Fun would also fall prey to creative problems from Channel 11's management.
By June of 1968, he got fed up with the infighting from the station heads and left the show following the Sunday, June 2, 1968 broadcast.
With Scoey Mitchell's departure Let's Have Fun was finally cancelled.
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