I was going to come out with Part IV of my Xciting Xmas Gift Guide but today I decided no, I will not. It’s every human for themselves when it comes to gift decisions and procurement at this stage of the game – there are so many gift guides, sales, promotions, stores, etc., that surely people can manage to find something.
When in doubt, make a donation in someone’s name to the Human Fund. Done and done.
So let’s talk about Family Feud instead.
The other night I was cycling through my limited TV channel options (no cable) and I saw Steve Harvey hosting Family Feud. They finally got around to a black host! He seems to do an OK job for a game show host, although he’s not off the Danger List yet because of his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment, which reduces women and men to easy cliches who all want, think, need the same things. Actually, I might make my book club read this.
The Family Feud moment I caught was Steve complaining about his wife scolding him for peeing on the toilet seat (clearly, in complaining about this, she was not thinking like a man). She admonished him with this rhyme:
“If you sprinkle while you tinkle, be a sweetie and lift the seatie.”
High hilarity, that. I think I saw that on a dusty cross-stitch at a thrift store the other day.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. How many hosts has this show had? It seems like 20 but the actual answer is six. Let’s start at the beginning of the Family Feud timeline with the host I grew up with (and will forever judge all other hosts against): Richard Dawson.
The King: Richard Dawson, 1975-1985 & 1994-1995
Richard Dawson is a Brit with a melodious voice and the wearer of sweet haircuts that rivals those of early 00’s George Clooney. You may, if you are old(ish) or just really into TV, recall that he was on Hogan’s Heroes, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and a year of The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
Question: Could someone with the last name Van Dyke make it in showbiz today?
Why was Dawson the best host of the Feud? Because he always seemed tipsy, jonesing for a smoke and completely uninterested in who actually won the game, preferring instead to concentrate on his real hobby: kissing the female contestants. When I was a girl watching Family Feud, I tried to imagine what Richard would smell like when he came in for the smooch – cigarettes, expensive cologne and maybe a bit like pastrami on rye.
Here is a round-up of the best things about him:
1. He ran away from home to join the Merchant Marine.
2. His early stage name was Dickie Dawson.
3. His first marriage was to a British sex symbol, back when people still said things like “sex symbol.”
4. In 1967, Dawson released a psychedelic 45 record – just two songs – and then never released any more music.
5. At one point he was on a show called Masquerade Party that also featured Nipsey Russell. Do you know Nipsey? He’s rad.
6. His love of kissing the ladies on Family Feud earned him the nickname The Kissing Bandit. I don’t believe any lawsuits were ever filed against him. It was a simpler, less litigious, time.
7. “On Dawson’s first show (on Feud) upon his return (1994) he received a 25-second standing ovation when he walked on set.” Seriously. They timed that shit.
Dark Legacy: Ray Combs, 1988-1994
Combs was a comedian who quit his job as a furniture salesperson in Ohio to move to Hollywood with his family and make it. He found work doing audience warm-ups for shows like The Golden Girls and Amen. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and got roles on sitcoms… he was a hard worker. Finally, he got the regular gig hosting the Family Feud reboot. However, by 1993 the rating for the show were on such a slide that the network decided to bring Dawson back in order to save the show and Combs was fired.
Can I just share with you this awesome anecdote about this?
“The taping of his final episode aired in first-run syndication on May 27, 1994. During the “Fast Money” bonus round, the five answers given by the second contestant each netted zero points. Ray joked, “You know, I’ve done this show for six years and this [is] the first time I had a person that 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. You made me look like a man.” Then, instead of mingling with the two competing families at the end of the show, Combs walked off the set immediately after his sign-off.”
Here’s where it takes a dark turn: Combs never really recovered after the Feud. He had a car accident that messed up his spine, he had some comedy clubs that failed, he got divorced and he lost his house in Ohio. He became suicidal, was admitted to a psych ward for 72-hour observation but managed to kill himself by hanging himself in his closet with bed sheets.
Wow. Sorry for the downer. I’m going to take a short break.
The Caustic Clown: Louie Anderson, 1999-2002
We all know Louie. Well, we do here in Minnesota because he’s from Minneapolis and we cling to our few celebrities here pretty tightly. See, we’re funny! We’re talented! Home to Louie Anderson and don’t forget those Coen Bros.
Louie is a stand-up comedian who had some runs at shows of his own – an animated series for Fox and then The Louie Show for CBS, which aired 6 times. But kudos to Louie for portraying someone from Duluth on national TV.
What stands out about Louie’s tenure on the Feud is contentiousness. First, he beat out Dolly Parton for the position and I think we as a nation would have benefited from a Dolly Parton-hosted Family Feud, so thanks, Louie, for robbing us of this opportunity. Next, he asked Richard Dawson to come on the show for the first episode and kind of, lay hands on him, or crown him as the new king but Dawson refused.
Finally, Louie got the boot and was replaced by Home Improvement star Richard Karn (yeah, that other guy from Home Improvement). On his way out, Louie said the show would not last, could not possibly go on without him, for more than a season. It did, and of course it would, because that’s life, Louie. Everyone is replaceable.
That Guy From Home Improvement: Richard Karn, 2002-2006
Maybe the coolest thing about Richard Karn is that he found out about the casting call for Home Improvement while at traffic school for a ticket he received. This seems to be right up there with sitting at the soda fountain at the drug store and being discovered by an agent. We do like our Hollywood Lore, after all.
He was a guest star on the pilot episode of the show and then became a regular.
And that about sums up the coolness factor of Richard Karn. After he was replaced on Feud, he went on to host a game show called Bingo America.
I think our examination of Karn is complete.
J. Peterman 4-Evah: John O’Hurley, 2006-2010
No matter what crappy show John O’Hurley might show up on for the rest of his professional life, he gets a pass because he played J. Peterman on Seinfeld. For example, he could host Bingo America and be known as The Beloved Host of Bingo America. In fact, I can do better than that and give you a real-life example – he was on Dancing With the Stars but that shit rolls right off him, like hurling turds at a Teflon wall.
But what really gives this guy cred is his love of dogs. Dude loves dogs and hosts The National Dog Show on Thanksgiving every year.
Also, in 2001 he financed the relaunch of the real J. Peterman Company and became part owner. How much does that kick ass? Go take a look at their clothing here and pick up something for that upcoming safari.
Pretender To the Throne: Steve Harvey, 2010-present
I tried to like Steve Harvey at one point in my life, specifically after seeing the movie The Original Kings of Comedy. He’s a stand-up comedian and he can command a stage, which is really what the Feud needs. It needs to be led, damn it! But after reading the following, I can’t throw my full weight behind Steve, although I’d rather wish him luck as the host of Family Feud than, say, U.S. Senator or even a science teacher.
“On March 27, 2009, Harvey appeared on an episode of The Tyra Show with Tyra Banks to promote his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. During the course of the interview, Harvey advised that women should not date atheists, saying: ‘You sitting up there talking to a dude and he tells you he’s an atheist, you need to pack it up and go home. You talking to a person who don’t believe in God . . . what’s his moral barometer? Where’s it at? It’s nowhere.’
Later that year, on May 30, Harvey appeared on an episode of Larry King Live guest hosted by Joy Behar. During that interview, Harvey reiterated his assertion that women should not date atheists, who he claimed have “no moral barometer.” Harvey stated that he refuses to speak to anyone claiming to be an atheist, who he said are “idiot(s)”. Harvey went on to suggest that modern astrophysics and evolutionary biology are without merit.”
This is the kind of jack-assery that Richard Dawson would never have engaged in. Instead, he would have had a belt of whiskey, a smoke and asked the show’s producer if there were any foxes on the show that day.
Long Live The Family Feud King.