12 Fun Facts About Family Feud

Game Show Network LLC
Game Show Network LLC

Created as a spinoff of Match Game, Family Feud got its start in 1976 with Richard Dawson as the first of six hosts—a roster that would later include Ray Combs, Louie Anderson, Richard Karn, John O'Hurley, and current host Steve Harvey. The format is simple: Two teams of families try to come up with the most popular answer to a list of survey questions and bring home a handful of cash. Think you know everything there is to know about the beloved game show? Survey says ...

1. A CONGENIAL HOST IS THE SECRET TO FAMILY FEUD’S SUCCESS.

“In the more game-oriented shows the host is essentially a traffic cop,” TV historian Tim Brooks told The Daily Beast. “On the other hand, someone like Steve Harvey is very involved with the contestants.” However, Family Feud producers attribute the show's longtime high ratings to the more risqué questions.

“A lot of humor has been added in and we’ve added in questions that lean that way,” executive producer Gaby Johnston said. “The material’s a little more—well, not so politically correct, but it’s fun” (which is probably what led to one contestant to answer “gerbil” when asked: What does a doctor pull out of a person?).

2. RICHARD DAWSON SAID HE KISSED THE FEMALE CONTESTANTS TO RELAX THEM.

The 1970s were a different time, as evidenced by the fact that one of original host Richard Dawson’s trademarks was kissing female contestants on the mouth, much to the chagrin of viewers and ABC’s Standards and Practices division. But he claimed there was a certain logic to this signature move.

A few weeks into taping the first season, Dawson noticed a nervous female contestant. The question was: Name a green vegetable. “I got to a lady and I could see her hands just shaking, so I always grabbed a hand and said it’s not open heart surgery,” he told EmmyTVLegends. “She’s still shaking, so I’m going to do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind. I kissed her on the cheek and I said ‘That’s for luck’ and she said ‘Asparagus.’ It’s like I whispered in her ear, but you can see I didn’t.”

3. NOT ALL VIEWERS WERE A FAN OF DAWSON'S LIBERAL SMOOCHES.

Richard Dawson hosts 'Family Feud'
ABC Television, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Viewers complained about Dawson's wandering lips to the point where he conducted an informal survey, asking viewers to write in saying either yes or no to the kissing. “I don't remember the exact totals,” producer Howard Felsher told The Washington Post in 1978, “but it was something like 14,000 who said ‘kiss’ and 300 or 400 who said ‘don't kiss.’ It was that lopsided.”

4. DAWSON ENDED UP MARRYING A CONTESTANT.

In 1981, one of the contestants Dawson kissed ended up becoming his second wife. He kissed Gretchen Johnson—her family won $12,659—and in 1991 they married.

5. PEOPLE POLLED FOR THE SURVEYS DON’T KNOW IT’S FOR FAMILY FEUD.

The Wall Street Journal looked into how Family Feud's surveys are conducted and discovered that a polling firm named Applied Research-West phones random people to complete the surveys. According to the article, “The surveyors don’t disclose that the questions are for Family Feud. A typical phone survey includes 30 or 40 questions, culled from 100 submitted to [executive-producer] Gaby Johnston daily by writers and consultants for the show. Topical questions may air as soon as three weeks after the survey responses have been collected and compiled.” But the size of that pool can have a large margin of error. In the show’s beginnings, volunteers answered questions through a mailing list. 

6. DAWSON DIDN’T CARE IF FEUD LOST SPONSORS.

One time, a sponsor complained to ABC that Dawson was making too many anti-Richard Nixon jokes. The network told Dawson to stop, but Dawson said on-air that if the sponsor didn’t like the jokes, they could pull out. ABC wanted Dawson’s remark to be edited out, but when Dawson threatened to quit they kept it in. “I know advertisers,” Dawson told The Washington Post. “They’d sponsor Eichmann if he could move Rust-Off, or whatever.”

7. LOUIE ANDERSON HELPED INCREASE THE PRIZE MONEY.

Louie Anderson
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Until 2001, families who won the Fast Money round won only $10,000. But Louie Anderson grew up watching Feud and told The A.V. Club that he understood how viewers "live vicariously" through game shows, and that he wanted to see the winners walk away with even more cash. So in 2001, during his tenure as host, he managed to talk the producers into doubling the prize money to $20,000.

“You’re rooting for those people who are playing, you really are,” he said. “So I feel very proud about my days on the Feud. I took the money and really feel like I talked them into—or had a big part in helping them—make [the grand prize] $20,000 instead of $10,000.”

8. BEING OVER-THE-TOP IS ONE WAY TO GET ON THE SHOW.

On Family Feud’s website, co-executive producer and head of casting Sara Dansby offers some tips for families looking to become contestants on the show. Being energetic is a big thing and “there’s no such thing as too over-the-top,” she wrote. “Pick the most outgoing members of the family when putting together your team. We love loud and energetic contestants.” She also suggests families be confident and just be themselves.

9. STEVE HARVEY HAS HEARD A LOT OF DUMB ANSWERS.

While appearing on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Meyers asked Steve Harvey the dumbest answer he has ever heard to a survey question. “The question was, ‘If a robber breaks into the house, what’s the most unexpected thing he would hate to run into?’ You’re thinking, you know, an owner with a gun. You’re thinking a dog … this country dude goes: ‘A naked grandma!,’” Harvey said. “You just go, ‘What … what did … what … why is that your answer?'”

“Name a word or phrase that begins with pork” is another question that resulted in a dumb answer: “pork-cupine.” “Pork-cupine is not a damn word,” Harvey said.

10. DAWSON PRETENDED THAT THE DUMB ANSWERS "MADE SENSE."

Unlike Harvey, who tends to give a hard time to contestants for their silly answers, Dawson took a different approach. “Everything about the show fit perfectly for me or how I think,” he told EmmyTVLegends. “Usually, I say ‘good answer,’ in a sarcastic way. ‘Name a vegetable you have to peel to eat.’ They’d say grape, and I‘d say ‘good answer.’ Or if I say, ‘the dictator we fought against in World War II’—they’d say Otto Preminger and I’d say ‘the Otto Preminger?’ I’d talk to them like they had made sense.”

11. THE GAME SHOW HAS GONE GLOBAL.

Family Feud has been translated into many different languages and countries. Familetna, Algeria’s version, debuted in 2014. Familien-Duell was Germany’s answer to Family Feud. There have been a lot of Latin America adaptations, including Mexico’s current 100 Mexicanos Dijieron, and ¿Qué Dice La Gente?, which ran from 2006 to 2008. La Guerre des Clans airs in Canada, and until last year, Vietnam ran Chung Sức.

12. DAWSON IMPROVISED HIS ROLE IN THE RUNNING MAN.

In 1987, Dawson played a version of himself in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man. In an interview, screenwriter Steven de Souza revealed that Dawson tried to entertain the bored extras. “He would just arbitrarily call somebody in the audience up on the stage and say, 'Where you from?,' but that’s not in the script!” de Souza said. “It’s what he would do in the real TV show.”

Dawson’s off-the-cuff dialogue became problematic, so de Souza had to rework the script. “With Richard Dawson ad libbing on and on, you go, ‘Well, why doesn’t Arnold knock out a guard and take a machine gun? Why does he just stand around like a schmuck while this guy’s rambling on?’ So we had to solve that problem,” de Souza said. “If you scrutinize the movie now, you can see where we skipped over that problem as quickly as possible.”

10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars

Jeff Bridges accepts the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010.
Jeff Bridges accepts the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Winning an Oscar is, for most people, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you're Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you'd think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are (we're looking at you, Colin Firth).

1. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie with her Oscar in 2000.
HO/AMPAS

At the 2000 Academy Awards ceremony, after Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world collectively squirm, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage when Marcheline died in 2007, but it hasn't yet surfaced. "I didn't actually lose it," Jolie said, "but nobody knows where it is at the moment."

2. Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg with her Oscar.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. "Oscar will never leave my house again," Goldberg said.

3. Olympia Dukakis

Olympia Dukakis with an Oscar statue.
Steven Henry/Getty Images

When Olympia Dukakis's Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. "For $78," they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando in 1957.
Keystone/Getty Images

"I don't know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront," Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. "Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared." He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. "The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don't know where it is now."

5. Jeff Bridges

Actor Jeff Bridges, winner of Best Actor award for
Jeff Bridges, winner of the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart, poses in the press room at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards on March 7, 2010.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

In 2010, Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges won his first-ever Oscar for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the time next year's ceremony rolled around, when he was nominated yet again for his role in the Coen brothers's True Grit

When asked about his year-old statuette, Bridges admitted that "It's been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now." Finding the MIA Oscar seemed even more urgent when Bridges lost the 2011 Best Actor Oscar to Colin Firth for The King's Speech. "I'm hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven't won a spare," Bridges said. "But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better." 

6. Colin Firth

Colin Firth with his Oscar in 2011.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed Colin Firth as he said those aforementioned words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. Matt Damon

Actor Matt Damon in 1999
Brenda Chase/Hulton Archive

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn't sure where his award went. "I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it," Damon said in 2007.

8. Margaret O'Brien

Child actress Margaret O'Brien.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1945, 7-year-old Margaret O'Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O'Briens' maid took the award home to polish it, as she had done before, but never returned. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O'Brien's mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There's a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O'Brien. "I'll never give it to anyone to polish again," she said.

9. Bing Crosby

Barry Fitzgerald (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while American actor Bing Crosby holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in Going My Way; 1945.
Barry Fitzgerald (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while American actor Bing Crosby holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in Going My Way; 1945.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944's Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school's library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a 3-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. "I wanted to make people laugh," the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. Hattie McDaniel

A publicity still from 1939's Gone with the Wind; at the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel (left) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Vivien Leigh (right) won Best Actress. Olivia de Havilland (center) was also nominated for Best Supporting A
A publicity still from 1939's Gone with the Wind; at the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel (left) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Vivien Leigh (right) won Best Actress. Olivia de Havilland (center) was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

The Most Successful Entertainment Production in History Might Just Surprise You

Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Last year, Marvel Studios capped off an unprecedented run of success with Avengers: Endgame, a movie promoted as the culmination of over 10 years of storytelling. The film made $2.8 billion, unseating 2009’s Avatar and knocking 1997’s Titanic down to third place. With nearly $3 billion in ticket sales, you would think Endgame would count as the most successful entertainment production of all time—be it a single movie, book, album, or video game.

It isn’t.

While it earned a staggering amount of money, Endgame is hobbled by the fact that theatrical runs last just a few weeks or months. To really roll in the dough, it helps to have a combination of high ticket prices and a show that runs almost in perpetuity. That’s why it’s another Disney production, the Broadway adaption of The Lion King, that can make a credible claim to being the most financially rewarding entertainment effort of all time. Since debuting in 1997, the stage show has grossed $9.1 billion. (The 1994 film, 2019 live action remake, and merchandising aren’t included in that total. If they were, the number rises to $11.6 billion.)

A theater sign for 'The Lion King' is pictured in New York City in March 2003
Mario Tama, Getty Images

The musical, adapted by Julie Taymor, follows the story of the animated original, with lion cub Simba learning to accept his role as king of the Serengeti Plains. It’s estimated the show has been mounted 25 times globally in nine different languages, with more than 100 million people purchasing a ticket to see it.

Does that make Endgame a distant second? Not quite. Another long-running musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, has grossed more than $6 billion since its 1988 debut. The 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto 5 cleared $6 billion in 2018. And if one were to account for inflation, 1939’s Gone with the Wind made $3.44 billion.

The Lion King does have one asterisk, however. If inflation is taken into consideration, then 1978’s arcade classic Space Invaders comes out the winner. The popular coin-op game—which was later ported over to the Atari 2600—was a smash hit. By 1983, it had made $3.8 billion. Accounting for inflation, it earned $13.9 billion. What’s even more impressive is that unlike big-ticket movies and stage shows, Space Invaders did it one quarter at a time.

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