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,” died March 15 of congestive heart failure at Shell Pointe Village Pavillion, a nursing home in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 87.
Starting out in radio in the Midwest, the tall, blond Kirby teamed up with Moore off and on for 30 years, serving as announcer and performer on Moore’s 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 helped Carol Burnett achieve stardom and was known for its nostalgia segments, called “That Wonderful Year.”
Kirby co-hosted “Candid Camera” from 1961-66. The show, created by Allen Funt that 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.
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.”
Kirby penned three books: “My Life, Those Wonderful Years,” “Bits and Pieces of This and That” and a children’s book called “Dooley Wilson.”
Born in Covington, Ky., Kirby was at Purdue U., 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 subsequently worked in radio in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Chicago. Kirby served during World War II before beginning his TV career in New York City shortly after the war.
Survivors include a son and three grandsons.