There’s no question that actor Paul Lynde was a fixture of Classic TV, and while he never managed his own hit show, he made memorable appearances on dozens of the biggest sitcoms of the 1960s and early ‘70s, most notably Bewitched. And on top of that, there was his taking up residence, from 1968 to 1981, in the center square of the game show The Hollywood Squares that really allowed him to connect with viewers.
On that show, which aired five days a week, Paul, like the rest of the nine contestants, offered up snappy answers to questions that would hopefully allow players to achieve the required tic-tac-toe that would lead to victory. But what separated him from the others was his particular brand of snark — and the speed of his responses — which made America truly fall in love with him.
Erin Murphy, who played young Tabitha on Bewitched, reflected to Closer Weekly in an exclusive new interview, “I think he was a lot like Robin Williams — just one of those people who’s naturally funny. His voice is funny, his mannerisms are funny. I loved working with him.”
“Everybody loved him,” offered Cathy Rudolph, his friend and author of Paul Lynde: A Biography — His Life, His Love(s) and His Laughter, in an exclusive interview. “I still have people writing and telling me how much they loved him, that they think he’s great, and they’re still amazed at what a genius he was with those one-liners that came out of his head on Hollywood Squares. Of course, I hate to break their hearts, but those lines did not all come out of his head.” She emphasized that the answers were not provided, just his jokey responses. “They were scripted and he would admit that later, though he was reluctant to do so. He didn’t want people to all of a sudden think that he wasn’t smart or witty, so he kind of teetered on that when asked about it.”
Herbie J Pilato, author of Twice Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery and Bewitched Forever, added, “He was ‘everyman funny.’ He said some things we all were thinking, and that’s a gift to be able to key automatically to the masses. He hit the funny bone in each of us.” As to his jokes being scripted, “It didn’t matter, because he was the one that made those lines funny. If someone else said them, those lines would not have been as hilarious. It’s all about the delivery, and his was top-notch.”
Harry Friedman, associate producer and writer for The Hollywood Squares, told The Archive of American Television, “Paul Lynde clearly had some issues; he had some demons. But when he was on, he was on. He could sell a joke like nobody else, because there was an anticipation that what he was about to say was going to be funny. And so the audience was primed to laugh when he delivered the joke.”
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