‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ Founder Says Show Was Born from Japanese TV, Shares His Top Clip Picks

VIDEO: Vin Di Bona presents a new reality show idea: "Americas Funniest Home Videos."


Credit: John M. Heller/Getty Images

 Back when the founders of YouTube were still in grade school, Vin Di Bona was already working on a TV-show idea that would entertain folks using viewer-created and -submitted home videos.

The immensely popular show, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” is the grand-daddy of not just reality TV but also of content sharing. After launching in 1989, the show is still going strong — Season 21 averaged around 7 million viewers as the show heads into Season 22 this fall.

Once a producer and director for “Entertainment Tonight” and “MacGyver,” Di Bona said he got the idea for “AFV” in the ’80s after watching a variety show on Tokyo broadcasting called “Fun with Ken and Cato Chan.”

“It has a black-out skit, it has a musical number, a little talk segment and then they showed these three home videos,” Di Bona told ABC News’ David Wright. “The home videos were hysterical. So I looked at it just … Let’s take a bunch of videos, give a prize and that’s going to be the show and that was it.”

He first got the chance to showcase his concept on “Good Morning America,” circa August 1989, where he explained his show’s motto: “If whatever you shot with your home video camera is funny or amazing, send it in now because we’ll put it on the air.”


“The ‘GMA’ spot was on a Monday,” Di Bona said. “I made a phone call to the office on Tuesday and at noon we’d received 24 Fed Express tapes. The very first day, and then it started to build.”

By the time the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” pilot aired Nov. 26, 1989, the mailroom was getting 1,800 VSH tapes a day. The snail mail volume has slowed considerably since then, simply because the show has outlived the camcorder.

“We’re getting probably 75 to 150 tapes snail mail a week, where we used to get a thousand,” Di Bona said. “But on the upload side, we’re getting 1,500 to 2,000 a week.”

The process of finding those hilarious home video gems and then getting them on television takes several steps. First, ‘AFV’ has to make sure whoever was featured in the clip wants to be on television, then editors take the raw footage and package and polish them for broadcast.

Tune into “ Nightline” tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET to watch ABC News’ David Wright’s full report and see how the ‘AFV’ team makes it happen.

With more than 20 years of video footage to sift through, Di Bona shared his top five favorites from over the years:

1. “Fake electrocution scare”

2. “Chainsaw wake-up”

3. “Laughing quads”

4. “Sleeping bulldog with cheese puff”

5. “Miles, Mommy won’t kill you.”

Watch a video montage of  Di Bona’s picks here:


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