The best TV game show hosts are the ones able to connect with the studio audience, viewers at home and, of course, contestants. But of all of the hosts that have emceed television games over the decades, there are only a handful that really stand out from the rest, including Monty Hall of Let’s Make a Deal, Gene Rayburn of Match Game, Alex Trebek of Jeopardy and, of course, Richard Dawson of Family Feud. And of them, there was something that allowed Dawson to be even more memorable than the others (and it wasn’t just because he tended to kiss the female players).
“He was definitely very different from the typical game show host,” offers David Baber, author of Television Game Show Hosts: Biographies of 32 Stars in an exclusive interview. “I don’t want to say that Richard wasn’t nice and friendly, but he had a side of him that was snarky and sarcastic. He believed in telling the truth and it would just all come out, whereas a lot of hosts tend to turn a filter on and say, ‘I’m going to be nice to this contestant even if I don’t like them.’ A lot of times, Richard would let it be known if he didn’t like them. He wouldn’t just come right out and say it, but he would usually make some sarcastic crack and put them in their place. He would especially do that on Family Feud.
“Even Richard himself knew that he was different from the typical host,” he continues, “because if a contestant gave a wacky answer on Family Feud, he would look at them and say, ‘Are you on narcotics?’ To one contestant he said, ‘Maybe you should stop watching this crap’ — he was referring to television — ‘and read some books.’ No other hosts did anything like that. At least not back then. There might be some now that are more like Dawson, but he definitely stood out at the time. Everybody who worked for him said he was very different.”
Richard Dawson, of course, first came to the attention of Americans through his role as Corporal Peter Newkirk on the 1965 to 1971 Bob Crane-led sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, and then as a panelist on Match Game in the 1970s. His immense popularity on that show would ultimately lead to him shifting from panelist on Match Game to hosting Family Feud, achieving a level of stardom he hadn’t before. That, unfortunately, would become a problem with his ego growing right along with his success and him treating many others as being beneath him.
“With Match Game, the people I spoke to said that before he got really famous, Richard was friendly, outgoing and he had a generous side,” says David. “If he liked you, he really liked you and would go out of his way to help you. He would on Family Feud, too. A lot of times he’d bring staff members on camera and introduce them, whether it was a cameraman or a production assistant. He’d let these people have their 15 seconds of fame and give them compliments. Even when his ego ran wild, he could still show a generous side.”
For much more on Richard Dawson, please scroll down.
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