"I've had the most incredible luck in my career. I've done lots and lots of jobs, and I've never, ever had a job like Family Feud. I've never DREAMED I would ever have a job where so many people could touch me and I could touch them." —Richard Dawson
Family Feud is a popular American game show created by Mark Goodson where two family teams of five compete for cash and prizes. It made its debut on ABC on July 12, 1976 as part of the daytime lineup, and ran until June 14, 1985. Since then, the show has been relaunched by CBS, and produced in three separate syndication editions. The current series, hosted by Steve Harvey since 2010, has risen to one of the top five most popular syndicated television shows in the US. Below are 39 buzzer-beating facts about the Feud.
"Survey Says!" Is one of the most famous and popular game show catch phrases. The line is said by the host every time a team picks an answer. And most of the time it is followed by a giant red X.
In an unaired clip with host Steve Harvey, the contestants were asked to name another way that people say "Mother." It starts out well: The team wins the face-off with "Mommy," but things go downhill from there. They quickly get two Xs, first with "Nanny" and then "Nana," which really isn't all that different. One strike from losing the round, the next family member's guess is....still "Nana." The audience titters, Harvey reminds her that it's the same guess, and so she picks..."Mommy."
Richard Dawson, who was the first host of Family Feud, had a habit of kissing all of the female contestants. He was even called "The Kissing Bandit"! When asked by the producers to knock it off, he surveyed the audience, asking them to mail in what they wanted. 704 were against, and 14,600 wanted him to continue. This is why democracy doesn't work, people.
One of the unique things about Family Feud is that there is no age limit for trying out. The producers do, however, suggest that contestants be a minimum of 15 years old; some of the questions can be a little adult.
Ray Combs took over hosting duties in 1988 when the show returned after a hiatus. The fans never quite took to him though, largely because they were so loyal to Dawson. Combs lasted until 1994, and tragically ended up hanging himself in 1996 after being treated for depression.
John O’Hurley, best known for his role as J. Peterman on Seinfeld, hosted Family Feud for four seasons from 2006-2010 before deciding to retire and move on to other things. Instead of cracking jokes, he took a more sincere and professional approach to hosting. While the audience didn’t initially take to him, his quick wit and warmth made him one of the more popular hosts in the show’s history.
On June 2, 2012, Richard Dawson died of esophageal cancer, which was exactly 16 years after Combs’ suicide.
In the original version of the show, a bell sound effect was used along with accompanying techno music when the family successfully answered all five questions in the fast money round. The sound was also used when a family got the number one answer in a face-off. When Richard Karn took over hosting duties in 2002, the bell was removed from everything except the fast money round.
In 2010, when it was announced that Steve Harvey would be replacing John O'Hurley as host, the show also announced that it would be moving to Universal Studios in Florida. The move was to accommodate Harvey, who lived in Atlanta.
When a version of the show started taping in 1999, host Louie Anderson wanted to pay tribute to Richard Dawson by having him come down to the studio for the taping. The executive producer reached out to Dawson, but he wasn’t interested and refused the offer.
The play or pass option was first offered on the Richard Dawson version, and the contestant who won the face-off could choose to have their family play or pass. Initially, passes were extremely rare, but nowadays, many families use it as a strategic move.
In 1998, when Pearson Television started searching for a new host of Family Feud, the studio demanded that Louis Anderson shoot a pilot. Anderson came up with a different solution: He filmed himself and his family playing the game, and Anderson was ultimately offered the hosting duties for $1.5 million.
If no contestant gets an answer on the board during a face-off, the question is thrown out, the scene is edited from the final show, and the two players are sent back to the podium to answer a new question as if nothing has happened.
The first time Dawson ever kissed a female contestant was to calm her down because she was nervous. He told her that he was going to do what his mother used to do when someone was nervous: give them a kiss on the cheek.
Over the years, the show has both imposed and removed limits on how many times a family could win the game. Originally capped at five, the limit was thrown out in the 92-95 seasons, and brought back when Richard Karn started hosting in 2002. Beginning in the 2009-2010 season, if a family won five games in a row, they also won a new car.
In 2003, the show introduced a "Sudden Death" question for determining the winner when nobody reached 300 points at the end of the game. In these cases, the entire game rests on one answer, and a family can go from zero to hero just by getting the sudden death question right. By the same token, one bad answer can and has cost many families the game.
In its 40+ seasons, SNL has spoofed Family Feud on more than one occasion. A 1991 sketch featured Dana Carvey as Ray Combs, and a 1978 skit had the Coneheads as one of the families, with Bill Murray as host. More recently, SNL cast member Kenan Thompson has played Steve Harvey in the sketches, including a 2016 “political edition” featuring Trump’s children as contestants.
The first question asked on Family Feud was “Name a famous George.” The most popular response was George Washington.
In his brief stint as host between 1999 and 2002, Louie Anderson was not considered among the best of the show's hosts. While he is remembered for his charity episode after 9/11, he also publicly said the show would not last much longer. It ended up being Anderson who didn’t last much longer, while the show is still on the air in 2017.
When a family wins the game, the cash winnings are automatically divided five ways. A car is a different story. Since a car can’t actually be divided, the car is simply given to the family who is then left to figure it out. According to one contestant, the family also has the option of taking the cash equivalent of the car, which is then also divided five ways.
Regular viewers of Family Feud may have noticed that the show usually features two families of opposite race playing the show. This is apparently done by design so that the show will appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
On a 2015 episode, the contestant was asked “Name the last thing you stuck your finger in.” His answer did not disappoint, and he promptly replied with, “My wife, Steve.” The answer didn’t make it on the board, but it definitely got huge laughs from host Steve Harvey and the audience.
People often wonder how much of "unscripted" television is actually scripted, but although contestants go through a rehearsal prior to taping, Family Feud is completely unscripted, and none of Steve Harvey’s jokes are planned.
One of the most bizzare answers to a question came from rapper Snoop Dogg in an episode of Celebrity Family Feud. The question asked was “Fill in the blank. Pie in the...” Most people would answer sky to that question, but not Snoop Dogg. He gave the phrase its own spin by answering "Horse."
In recent years, many fans have noticed that Family Feud appears to have taken on a much raunchier tone. At least once an episode, a contestant will give a sex-related answer, resulting in some kind of reaction (real or feigned) from Steve Harvey. One reason for the more adult nature of the answers could be that the show no longer censors the answers, but more importantly, the clips from these shows rack up serious hits on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
When Family Feud first aired in the 1970s, the US was still reeling from the Watergate scandal, and host Richard Dawson frequently made fun of Richard Nixon. One commercial sponsor was reportedly so angered by this that they complained to the network. The producers passed along the complaint to Dawson, who addressed the complaint on air by telling the advertiser that if they didn’t like his jokes, they could pull their ads, and that plenty of other companies were eager to take their place. The network wanted the remarks cut from the episode, but when Dawson threatened to quit, they aired it unedited.
In May, 1981, Dawson took a liking to a 20-something daughter in one of the competing families. They flirted for a few episodes, and when the family lost, he got permission to get her number from their paperwork and call her. The pair ended up marrying a few years later.
When the show was revived for syndication, they needed to find a new host (there was some discord between Dawson and the producers). Football legend Joe Namath was initially hired, but was nixed for Ray Combs. Prior to hiring Louie Anderson for the revival, the show also approached singer Dolly Parton, but she turned them down.
The Combs Feud was losing more and more viewers each year of his tenure, and the producers knew they needed to make a change. They put aside their feelings and begged Dawson to come back. The comeback was not meant to be, however, and the Dawson revival only lasted for one season.
The season had not yet finished taping when Combs was informed that his contract would not be renewed. On his final episode, after a contestant got straight zeroes in the final round, he didn’t hesitate to say exactly what he felt. He said “You know, I've done this show for six years and this could be the first time that I ever had a person who actually got no points, and I think it's a damn fine way to go out. Thought I was a loser until you walked up here, and you made me feel like a man." After that, he waved goodbye to the viewers, and walked off the set and out of the studio.
After Feud was cancelled in 1985 for declining ratings, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! held the top spot in the ratings for 30 years. In 2010, when Steve Harvey came on as host, the show started regaining its early popularity, and by October 2016, it had maintained top spot in the ratings for 26 straight weeks.
In 2014, all contestant Anna Sass had to do to win the $20,000 in the final round was get 18 points, which is basically getting one semi-popular answer. Unfortunately for her, and her family, she put up straight zeroes, and they lost out on the prize.
The answers to the questions on Family Feud have no factual basis whatsoever. The answers are based on a question asked to a panel of 100 people, and contestants are challenged to guess the most popular answers.
There have been numerous international versions of Family Feud over the years. A British version called Family Fortunes began airing in 1980, and has had five hosts. There has also been an Australian version with several hosts, a Mexican version called 100 Mexicanos Dijeron (100 Mexicans Said), and a successful Russian version literally called “100 by One.” In the Russian version, the competitors don’t have to be actual families, and can be co-workers, friends, or even competing bands.
From 1983 to 1985, a brief variant was introduced to the show. Tootsie Roll trees were placed at the end of each family’s table. The fifth contestant would draw a lollipop from the tree, and if it had a black stem, the family received a bonus of $100. The variant came from Dawson’s love of lollipops, which he often gave to the winning teams.
Sesame Street is known for their often hilarious pop culture parodies, and in 1981, they did an episode of Family Feud called “Family Food,” featuring a family of Muppet contestants. Richard Dawson himself appeared on the show, and was even seen doing his traditional kiss in the segment.
One of the things that makes Steve Harvey so popular on Family Feud is his priceless reactions to the bizarre answers he gets from contestants. On a 2016 episode, when a contestant answered "gravy" to the question “Name something people run across their lips,” he had to walk off the set to pull himself together after the answer actually came onto the board as "food."
Marijuana has come up on more than one occasion in either a question or an answer on the show. Perhaps one of the funniest moments came in 2016, when Snoop Dogg managed to lose a face-off on a weed themed question. The question was “Name something grandma might do if she caught grandpa smoking marijuana." Snoop’s answer? “Hit him.” Not quite what people were expecting from the pot expert.
One question on Family Feud had the show as an answer on the board. The question was “Name a TV show you’d be embarrassed to see your family members on.” Family Feud was the first guess (and the number four answer).
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