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Game Show Hosts

Television | By The Top 13 on March 1, 2010

Later this week, one of our favorite game show hosts, Wink Martindale (who barely missed this list for his work on Tic-Tac-Dough and a number of other shows), returns with a new game show - Instant Recall - on GSN. That got us thinking about our favorite game show hosts in television history. We considered the longevity, influence, personality, and sense of humor of the many choices, and arrived at this Top 13 Game Show Hosts of all time.

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Richard Dawson


Richard Dawson

Family Feud (1976-85, 1994-95)

Our top game show host originally gained fame as an actor, most notably from his role as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes. Dawson's foray into game shows actually began with his stint as a panelist on Gene Rayburn's Match Game '73, where his indelible wit and charm were one of the show's highlights. He was soon selected by noted producer Mark Goodson to host the new ABC game show Family Feud. On the Feud, Dawson's popularity would grow enormously, not only with the fans at home but with the contestants - most families would bring Dawson a gift from home and the ladies always were excited to receive one of Dawson's trademark kisses.

Bob Barker


Bob Barker

The Price Is Right (1972-2007)

One of America's most beloved TV personalities, Bob Barker had long-running stints as the host of two popular daytime game shows: NBC's Truth or Consequences and CBS's The Price Is Right. While he hosted the former for 20 years (from 1956-1975), it is the latter that will be Barker's legacy. Barker never failed to charm the audience as the contestants would try to win prizes in now-iconic pricing games. Barker finally retired in June 2007, setting a record by holding a weekday on-air TV job for 51 straight years. An animal rights activist, Barker would end every episode reminding us to "have your pets spayed and neutered."

Alex Trebek


Alex Trebek

Jeopardy! (1984-present)

It's rare when the host of a quiz show is as smart as, if not smarter than, most of the show's contestants. But if Alex Trebek isn't smarter than most of the brainiacs that appear on the classic "answer and question" game show Jeopardy!, then he has us fooled. The greatness of Trebek though, lies in his ability to remain likeable despite being condescending to contestants who give incorrect answers (or, rather, incorrect questions). Then, of course, there is Celebrity Jeopardy!, which has been famously and hysterically parodied by Saturday Night Live, with Will Ferrell as Trebek struggling to deal with moronic celebrity contestants.

Gene Rayburn


Gene Rayburn

Match Game (1962-69, 1973-79)

Game show hosts have often been lampooned for their long, skinny microphones, and Rayburn's was the longest and skinniest. An occasional substitute host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, Rayburn hosted CBS's Match Game from 1962-1969 and the NBC revival of the show from 1973-1979, keeping the show light and informal. This was essential, as Rayburn had to handle celebrity panelists (including mainstays Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers, and future Family Feud host Richard Dawson) who were often heavily intoxicated while taping.

Chuck Woolery


Chuck Woolery

Love Connection (1983-94)

Perhaps the most prolific host on our list, Woolery is recognizable to at least three different generations for different game shows. In the late 1970s, he served as the original host of Wheel of Fortune. In the 2000s, Woolery hosted the quiz show Greed on FOX and the word game Lingo for the Game Show Network. Woolery's heyday, however, was in the 1980s, when he simultaneously hosted the popular dating game Love Connection and the television version of the classic board game Scrabble. Woolery's tenure on Love Connection in particular - with his signature phrase "we'll be back in two and two" – cemented his status as a pop culture icon.

Monty Hall


Monty Hall

Let's Make a Deal (1963-77)

No one had to deal with more insanity on his game show than Hall. On Let's Make a Deal, contestants would dress up in crazy costumes, fill their pockets and purses full of random objects in the hopes that Hall would request them, and generally scream their heads off. Of course, nothing was better than the moment when contestants would opt for Door #2 over the wad of cash that Hall has offered them, only to see the door open and reveal a "zonk" prize such as bunk bathtubs or a farm animal. The famous probability puzzle - the "Monty Hall Problem" – is based on Let's Make a Deal and Hall's hidden prize games.

Pat Sajak


Pat Sajak

Wheel of Fortune (1981-present)

Despite being the host of one of the most popular syndicated game shows of all time, Sajak is arguably the second most popular personality on his own show. Sajak, a former weatherman, has been the host of Wheel of Fortune since he took over that role from Chuck Woolery in 1983. However, it is letter-turner Vanna White who is often considered the face of the show, even appearing in versions of the video game instead of Sajak. Despite living in the shadow of White, Sajak has successfully kept Wheel fresh and entertaining for over 27 years.

Groucho Marx


Groucho Marx

You Bet Your Life (1947-61)

Marx is best known as part of the legendary Marx Brothers comedy team, which pioneered both verbal and physical comedy on stage and film in the 1920s and 30s. After the Marx Brothers retired from Hollywood, Groucho went on to host the radio and television quiz show You Bet Your Life. The show's format was very casual and allowed Groucho to conduct lengthy interviews of the contestants, giving him ample opportunity to crack wise and put his famous sense of humor on display.

Peter Marshall


Peter Marshall

Hollywood Squares (1966-81)

Unlike many of the hosts on this Top 13, Marshall wasn't the one delivering the jokes on his show, but merely acted as the set-up man. Born Ralph Pierre LaCock, Marshall served as the original host of the Hollywood Squares. The show was less a game show than it was a forum for the comedians on the show to provide "joke" answers to the questions Marshall offered up. The unflappable Marshall was the perfect foil to the wacky personalities who served as regulars on the show – most notably "center square" Paul Lynde, who won two Daytime Emmy Awards for delivering outrageous one-liners on the show.

Dick Clark


Dick Clark

The $10,000 Pyramid (1973-88)

For his work across the medium, Clark might just be the most popular television show host in history. He introduced generations of teenagers to new music as the host of the widely popular American Bandstand and has hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC since 1972 (though Clark's health has recently forced him to cede some of the hosting duties to Ryan Seacrest). However, Clark also was a popular and successful game show host – primarily on The $10,000 Pyramid, which eventually increased its highest dollar prize to $100,000 during Clark's tenure. Clark's radio show voice, good looks, and apparent inability to age made him the perfect television host.

Jack Barry


Jack Barry

Twenty One (1956-58)

Barry's legacy as a game show host will forever be tarnished by his involvement in the Twenty One scandal. In 1958, it was discovered that the Barry-hosted quiz show was rigged, and even though Barry didn't conceive of the plan to fix the show, he admitted that he was aware of it and helped to cover it up. After the scandal, Barry's popularity and reputation were all but destroyed. In 1972, however, Barry made a successful return to game shows with the classic card game based game show The Joker's Wild.

Bob Eubanks


Bob Eubanks

The Newlywed Game (1966-74, 1977-80, 1985-88, 1997-99)

Eubanks had a job that was equally hilarious and uncomfortable. As the host of The Newlywed Game, he would ask newly married couples a series of potentially awkward questions about where and when they "make whoopee." The show was popular largely because of Eubanks' likeability and the surprising (and frank) answers that the contestants would give. Eubanks also hosted a revival of Card Sharks for CBS in the late 1980s and was so iconic as a game show host that the off-the-wall MTV game show Remote Control had a life-sized Bob Eubanks PEZ dispenser on the set.

Guy Smiley


Guy Smiley

Sesame Street (1969-present)

Smiley is the most popular game show host among children age six and under. As the host of the majority of Sesame Street's game shows, Smiley has been an integral part of its viewers' first exposure to game shows (and consequently, parodies of commercial media) for over 40 years. Voiced by Jim Henson until his death in 1990, Smiley hosted game show parodies such as What's My Part?, Here Is Your Life, Beat the Time, and Name That Sound!, among others. Smiley's physical appearance was modeled after game show host Jim Perry, who famously hosted Card Sharks and Sale of the Century in the 1970s and 80s.

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Comments Leave a comment


Oh please. No one tops Trebek.

7:57 AM   Mar 01, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

Obviously two people do. But seriously, Richard Dawson is the biggest pimp to ever appear on television.

8:26 AM   Mar 01, 2010


This brings back memories of watching game shows all day during summer vacation as a kid. CBS for Family Feud and Price is Right in the morning, and then the USA Network would show game shows all afternoon.

8:38 AM   Mar 01, 2010

jason ★★

Totally, that's my strongest association with game shows. Press Your Luck was my favorite back then, but as I've matured I have come to appreciate the power of Richard Dawson's lechery.

8:55 AM   Mar 01, 2010

stillathreat ★★

This list is a whammy - where the heck is Peter Tomarken. Press Your Luck was the best.

8:39 AM   Mar 01, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

Peter Tomarken was a deadbeat dad.

8:54 AM   Mar 01, 2010


great list

9:04 AM   Mar 01, 2010


pas david ruprecht? quel domage.

9:13 AM   Mar 01, 2010


Dawson was the man. Gameshows have just not been as sexual harassmenty since.

10:33 AM   Mar 01, 2010


and Jeff Probst, host of Rock n Roll Jeopardy. Travesty!

10:35 AM   Mar 01, 2010

ajay ★★

Top four is perfect, but Chuck Woolery sucks as much as his last name does.

11:36 AM   Mar 01, 2010

tloveisready ★★

Never did watch a lot of game shows, but the top 3 are very recognizable even to me. Also, bonus points for Robert Fagot on #5!

12:43 PM   Mar 03, 2010


I know this is showing my age, but there are 3 names missing that have to be on any list of top game show hosts.
The first & foremost is Bill Cullen. Cullen basically created the manual of how to host a game show & hosted almost every type of game show. Is main claim to fame is as the original host of "The Price is Right" during a 9 year run on NBC in prime time. The other 2 are Allen Ludden, the host of Password and the GE College Bowl. Some now Mr. Ludden as Betty White's late husband but his style
and class put his shows at a different level. The last is
John Charles Daly who host the prime time version of What's My Line? on CBS for 17 years. Although Line was on CBS during most of the show's run he was the president of ABC News. Daly's style and use of the English language set
Line apart. All 3 of these gentlemen passed away 20-30 years ago & were part of an era in television when shows talked up to their audiences and made their shows live on
their fans memories.

4:09 PM   Mar 16, 2010


Gotta love Trebek

1:47 PM   Apr 15, 2010


Guy Smiley makes the list but Wink Martindale doesn't? Pretty stupid!

3:19 PM   May 21, 2010


Richard Dawson definitely deserves number 1, but I think Alex Trebek and Gene Rayburn should come before Bob Barker.

10:20 PM   Jun 07, 2010

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