Name a game show you watch primarily to hear contestants give laughably bad answers and see Steve Harvey’s priceless reactions. Of course, it’s Family Feud.
For more than 40 years, Family Feud has done just what its title suggests: pit two different families against each other to see who can guess the most popular answers to survey questions. Throughout those decades, the show has seen an ongoing rotation of hosts, from the O.G. frontman Richard Dawson to Home Improvement vet Richard Karn much later to the most current Steve Harvey.
Without a panel of 100 people around, I asked myself which of the Family Feud hosts I like and prefer in order of least favorite to most favorite – because it's all favorites here – and this is what I have come up with. Show me the ranking!
6. Louie Anderson (1999-2002)
Family Feud had been off the air for four years when it was revived in syndication with a new host, stand-up comic Louie Anderson. The comedian was seen as an unlikely choice to revive the game show at the time, and is still seen as such today.
Louie Anderson had seen success as the star and creator of his autobiographical animated series Life With Louie in the years just before taking the Family Feud gig, though the multi-layered performance style he put into his cartoon and comedy act did not seem to carry over as gracefully to his game show host efforts. Not to say that Anderson did a bad job during his three-year run, but for a revival of a long-running game show, his hosting skills were not ideal.
Louie Anderson was let go from Family Feud in 2002 (more on his replacement later), but he is now more relevant than ever. In 2018, he released his sixth live stand-up special, Big Underwear, and in 2016 he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in TV Series, Comedy, for his role as Christine Baskets, the mother of Zach Galifianakis’ character of the FX series Baskets. He's been nominated each year since, too.
5. Richard Karn (2002-2006)
If you are a fan of Tim Allen’s long running sitcom Home Improvement, you probably felt bad for Richard Karn's Al Borland, feeling that he deserved to be the real host of Tool Time instead of just the assistant. Well, technically, you could say that Al finally got to be the host of something.
Richard Karn took over as host of Family Feud when Louie Anderson was let go in 2002. Replacing an established comedian with a former sitcom actor proved to be lackluster decision in the humor department, though, as Karn struggled through most of his attempts to drive a joke home. But he clearly wanted to make the gig work and showed great enthusiasm for the game by trying to keep the guest families entertained between questions.
After leaving Family Feud in 2006, Richard Karn would return to the game show hosting life in 2008 by replacing Patrick Duffy for Game Show Network’s short-lived Bingo America. Most recently, he starred as Maya Ishii-Peters’ father on Hulu’s PEN15.
4. John O’Hurley (2006-2010)
Of anyone on this list, no one has the quintessential look, the factory-model energy, and especially the million-dollar voice of a game show host quite like John O’Hurley does. More than likely, his stint on Family Feud probably would have lasted much longer if not for his own eventual decision to make an exit.
In a 2017 interview with Fox News, John O’Hurley that Family Feud was beginning to become a misnomer, claiming that every other question and answer would end up being a “penis joke.” Feeling that the content of his “family” program was no longer suitable for families, he left the show in 2010 after four years.
Outside of Family Feud, John O’Hurley's most recognizable role was Elaine Benes’ boss J. Peterman on Seinfeld, whom he portrayed from 1995-1998. He continues to make starring appearances on television, in person or from a recording booth, and has hosted Purina’s annual National Dog Show every Thanksgiving since 2002.
3. Ray Combs (1988-1994)
Probably the darkest story in Family Feud’s history is that of its second host, Ray Combs. The successful comedian and actor seemed to have just the right spirit and vigor to be the next great game show frontman, but things turned out to be much different for him behind the scenes.
In 1988, CBS gave Ray Combs a seven-year contract to host its revival of Family Feud, though it was cut short due to diminishing ratings, despite the host's winning personality. At the request of then-producer Jonathan Goodson, Combs was let go in 1994 and was replaced by original host Richard Dawson for the rest of that year, in the hopes of boosting ratings.
In the following years, Ray Combs struggled to revive his career, including gigs hosting a short-lived competition show and a failed talk show pilot. By 1996, he faced painful health problems, debilitating debt, and had recently separated from his wife. On June 2, 1996, the 40-year-old Ray Combs hung himself in his room at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center, where he'd already been placed under 72-hour psychiatric observation. He was survived at the time by his parents, his wife Debbie, and their six children.
2. Steve Harvey (2010-present)
Family Feud has more viewers, more raunchy humor, and (perhaps most importantly?) more memes than ever before thanks to one very vocal man: Steve Harvey. After the comedian took over for John O’Hurley in 2010, the move proved successful enough for the stand-up vet to beat out every host before him, save for one.
Steve Harvey brings a more honest, edgier tone to the show. He is especially famous for shameless calling out contestants for their ill-informed answers, which you can find countless video compilations of on YouTube. (Some aren't necessarily as "family" friendly as others, though, which would surely make John O'Hurley scoff.)
For a while, Steve Harvey was a triple threat on television, hosting NBC’s Little Big Shots and his self-titled syndicated talk show at the same time as Family Feud. Melissa McCarthy will soon take over has hots of Little Big Shots, though, and Harvey’s talk show was recently cancelled, but at least we can still trust him to shout “Survey says!” every weekday (and on Sundays for Celebrity Family Feud) for years to come… hopefully.
1. Richard Dawson (1976-1985, 1994-1995)
The original host of Family Feud is still regarded as one of the most legendary game show hosts of all time. While many modern day viewers have a special place in their hearts for Steve Harvey, the only choice for Number One had to be The Kissing Bandit.
Richard Dawson, born in England as Colin Lionel Emm, was an actor and comedian before his long-running stint as host of Family Feud. He'd had starring roles on Hogan’s Heroes and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and spent years a regular panelist on Match Game. His trademark as the Feud's host was planting a smooch on the female contestants, which the producers often tried to stop him from doing, though the audience refused to be dismayed by Dawson's charms (that likely wouldn't pass muster today).
Richard Dawson would later parody his Family Feud persona playing the ruthless emcee of a deadly, futuristic competition program in The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2012, he died of complications related to esophageal cancer, leaving behind a grand legacy in game show iconography.
Family Feud airs weekdays in syndication, so check your local listings to see when it plays in your area. Let us know in the poll below which Family Feud host was your favorite!
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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