Meet the key team behind the scenes and in front of the “AFV” camera.
Vin Di Bona
Originally, Vin Di Bona, above, was going to be a balladeer. As Johnny Lindy, he even had a hit in his home state of Rhode Island, and performed on TV. But then, as the 70-year-old creator and executive producer of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” recalls, “The Beatles turned up! It was over. Stuff happens.”
In a way, Di Bona has made his career on the back of that motto: Stuff happens, people catch it on camera and he airs it on his show, which is about to begin its 25th season. “We curate a show that will give you at least 10 to 15 belly laughs every hour,” he says. “It’s about mom, dad, kids sitting in the same room watching the same show, laughing together. It’s not brain surgery.”
Di Bona’s ability to look ahead and embrace the future is part of what keeps “AFV” on the air today. He readily admits that “I can barely spell ‘Twitter’ let alone use it,” yet in recent years has discovered that his show can be more than the sum of its parts by embracing social media and YouTube. “It’s been a welcome shift,” he allows.
But Di Bona still gets his real satisfaction not from “AFV’s” growing ratings numbers, or millions of YouTube subscribers. He knows the show works after he hears directly from fans. “A mom will say, ‘I grew up on your show and now my kids are watching it with me.’ Seeing the show transfer from one generation to another, and watching people share it together — that’s pretty damn good,” he says.
The clips and not Tom Bergeron are the star of “AFV,” and he knows it. But he’s grateful to the series he’s hosted for 14 years and that he will leave after its 25th season. “This is one of the real gifts of my career,” he says. “There’s never a better time than a milestone season to make it your call (to leave). This lets me celebrate the show, and embrace anyone who’s going to follow along.”
Bergeron is a host’s host; he got his start in New England in public television, then local morning TV, and eventually moved into national hosting spots in a variety of venues. He also is the Emmy Award winning host of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Bergeron respects his position at “AFV,” but is also practical: “I don’t call this show ‘the annuity’ for nothing,” he says. “This has been a hell of a ride.”
Bergeron understands how to focus on the target audience. “From my perspective, I have to be straight man to the videos,” he says. “I go along with the fact that we’re playing to a 7 p.m. family audience, so it’s not going to be the Algonquin Round Table, it’s not going to be ironic.”
He walks away having learned many valuable lessons, including how not to become the subject of his own funniest homevideo. “After hosting this for a decade and a half, I don’t go near a trampoline or pinata or skateboard or anything,” he says. “And I wear a cup 24/7. I have a titanium cup on … right now.”
Michele Nasraway’s resume may seem small for a producer who’s been in the business for more than 25 years, but don’t confuse that with a lack of experience. She just has a job she really loves at “AFV.” “I’m probably the luckiest producer in the world,” she says, noting that her current position was only her second in Hollywood — the first being employed by the showbiz parents of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Naomi Foner and Stephen Gyllenhaal.
“I worked in their guest quarters as an assistant for about three months, and while they were great people, it was isolating,” she says. So while looking through job listings at the UCLA career center, she stumbled on a position in the mailroom at one of TV’s top-rated series, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” then only about a year old. And the rest is showbiz history.
Having literally worked her way up from the “AFV” mailroom, Nasraway echoes what many do about her longevity with the series: That the family atmosphere is worth sticking around for. “Our newbies have been here 15 years,” she says. “We like our people, and those who are smart and talented and work stay around for a long time.”
Meanwhile, it turns out her favorite moments come from the natural reactions of show’s fans.
“Hearing how much people love the show, and how much their children love the show — how it’s really a unifying thing for the entire family — makes me feel good,” she says.
If the last name of the “AFV” producer rings a bell, it should: He’s the brother of Alan Thicke and uncle to Robin. Todd Thicke, however, has spent more time behind the camera than in front of it: He’s the man who wrote the pilot for “America’s Funniest Home Videos” 25 years ago, and is its current head writer and executive producer. “I’ve been in the trenches all this time,” he chuckles.
He and “AFV” creator Vin Di Bona paired on a number of projects before the homevideo concept stuck. But once they started taping it with a studio audience and host Bob Saget, “the laughs were so gigantic that we said, ‘Wow, this is lightning in a bottle.’ ”
Working with the hosts has been a consistent pleasure for Thicke, but his favorite videos have changed over the years. Right now he says he’s into “dog shaming” videos: “You know, where there’s a remote control to your TV with a huge bite out of it and the camera pans over to this dog with the sorrowful eyes,” he says.
While he thinks the show still has a long run in it, he recognizes that they have to work “every day to make it current, fresh and relevant.”
Since he does in fact have fans in his family, he can always use their reactions as a guide to how “AFV” is doing.
“They got it right from the beginning,” he says. “They love it and they’re fans —including my dad, who’s 85 and a practicing doctor in Canada who flies his own plane. He’s the inspiration for us all. It makes you raise your game.”