'America's Funniest Home Videos' Hosts Reflect on 30 Years of Hilarious Moments
It's hard to remember a time when Americans didn't have social media to share their funny and embarrassing filmed moments. But 30 years ago, the main destination for revealing those laugh-and-cringe recordings (wedding mishaps! outrageous falls!) was ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos.
And to think it all began…in Tokyo? "There was a variety show on Tokyo Broadcasting System called Fun TV With Kato-Chan and Ken-Chan," AFV creator Vin Di Bona says. "Toward the end of each episode, they'd show three home videos and ask celebrities to vote on the funniest one. We said, 'More home videos! Forget the variety; let's run a contest [with a $10,000 weekly prize and $100,000 grand prize] and we'll call the show America's Funniest Home Videos.' That was the beginning."
The reality show — which is already renewed for Season 31 and saw ratings rise 5 percent last year — will celebrate its milestone anniversary with the December 8 retrospective AFV: America, This Is You!, spotlighting the most hilarious entries of the series' run and catching up with past participants.
We gathered the longest-running hosts — Bob Saget (1989–97), Tom Bergeron (2001–15) and Alfonso Ribeiro (2015–present) — to reflect on what's kept people filming for decades and to share their all-time favorite videos.
Bob Saget on Returning to His 'America's Funniest Home Videos' Roots With Edgier 'Videos After Dark'
Have we really made history by getting you all together for an interview?
Tom Bergeron: Yeah, it's the first time! We've been friends, but we haven't hung out together like this.
Bob, when did you realize the audience was responding to the show?
Bob Saget: When we first aired [on November 26, 1989], I got a call from Tom Hanks, who is a friend, and he said, "This is the funniest thing I've ever seen!" That was an indication, getting phone calls while [people were watching live].
Tom and Alfonso, how did you try to differentiate yourselves from Bob when you took over?
Bergeron: I'm capable of doing voices, but it didn't feel right. That's Bob's thing. My tendency in life is to dryly comment, which felt more natural.
Alfonso Ribeiro: I knew the audience was used to a tone and feeling, so I said [to the writers], "Write it for Tom, and I'll adjust to make it work for me." It allowed the transition to be more seamless.
Was there pressure to follow in Bob's footsteps?
Saget: I can answer that for them. No!
Ribeiro: The first thing I learned was you might have a studio audience with you, but really you're talking to that guy sitting on the couch [at home]. I'm always giving the audience a wink, like, "Hey, I'm here with you."
Saget: You're the audience's friend and you're also part of the audience because the audience is the star of the show.
When the series began, people mailed in videotapes, right?
Saget: We went all the way back to Beta tapes and VHS. I'd say, "Send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope" to get the tape back.
Ribeiro: We're getting more videos than ever now because of our app. [You can download it to] your phone, hit send and the video goes right to the producers. [Fun fact: AFV's database currently holds more than 38,000 videos!]
What's your all-time favorite entry?
Bergeron: The one that always comes to mind first is where this woman is doing a tandem skydive and she's just got this wonderful ear-to-ear grin on her face, and the wind current from falling takes her false teeth out.
Ribeiro: From my second season, a younger brother is getting his older brother to go on a slingshot ride [at an amusement park]. Before the ride starts, the older brother starts screaming and he passes out! Then he comes to during the ride and he's like, "Ah!" and he passes out again! It was a $100,000 winner.
Saget: My favorite I was never able to air. It's a video of a monkey in the tree and he scratches his butt, sniffs his hand, shakes and passes out, falling out of frame. [The network's] standards and practices said, "You can't run it." But when Tom hosted, he had me on as a guest and they were finally able to show it.
Important question: Will a hit to one's private parts ever not be funny?
Ribeiro: It will never get old.
Bergeron: During my tenure, we had the one millionth crotch hit!
Bergeron: We had a trophy of a guy holding his crotch!
America's Funniest Home Videos, Sundays, 7/6c, ABC
AFV: America, This Is You! Sunday, Dec. 8, 8/7c, ABC