You Bet Your Life

You Bet Your Life is an American quiz show that aired on both radio and television.  The original and best-known version was hosted by Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers, with announcer and assistant George Fenneman.

The show debuted on ABC Radio in October 1947, then moved to CBS Radio in September 1949 before making the transition to NBC-TV in October 1950.  Because of its simple format, it was possible to broadcast the show simultaneously on the radio and on television.  In 1960, the show was renamed The Groucho Show and ran a further year.  Most episodes are in the public domain.

The play of the game, however, was secondary to the interplay between Groucho, the contestants, and occasionally Fenneman.  The program was rerun into the 1970s, and later in syndication as The Best of Groucho.  As such, it was the first game show to have its reruns syndicated.

During a radio appearance with Bob Hope in March 1947, Marx ad-libbed most of his performance after being forced to stand by in a waiting room for 40 minutes before going live on the air.  John Guedel, the Hope program’s producer, formed an idea for a quiz show and approached Marx about the subject.  After initial reluctance by Marx, Guedel was able to convince him to host the program after Marx realized the quiz would be only a backdrop for his contestant interviews and the storm of ad-libbing that they would elicit.  Guedel also convinced Marx to invest in 50% of the show, in part by saying that he was “untouchable” at ad-libbing, but not at following a script.  As Marx and the contestants were ad-libbing, he insisted that each show be filmed and edited before release to remove the risque or less interesting material.  The show for the studio audience ran longer than the broadcast version.  The president of Film Craft Productions, which did the filming, cited it as the first TV show filmed before a live audience as part of a lengthy essay about production procedures.

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