‘Family Feud’: How the Show Discreetly Finds 100 People for Its Surveys

One of the most unusual reality TV game shows on television must be Family Feud. Viewers never know what will happen next on the show, and the result is an experience so funny that even celebrities can’t wait to appear on the famous stage.

Between the contestants’ unexpected answers and host Steve Harvey’s outsized reactions, Family Feud is definitely one of a kind. But how do the show’s producers come up with so many questions and answers? 

The show has a long and unusual history

Steve Harvey
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER , STEVE HARVEY, MAX GREEFIELD | Byron Cohen / ABC via Getty Images

Since its first episode on July 12, 1976, Family Feud has been a fan favorite. It started its reign on ABC, but the network canceled the show in 1985. That would have been the end, but CBS picked it up and relaunched it in 1988. There was another break when it was off the air from 1993 to 1999, but it’s been going strong ever since. 

The show has had six hosts along the way, beginning with Richard Dawson. Dawson was known for kissing the women who appeared on the show, which some viewers didn’t appreciate.

However, when Dawson asked the viewers to write in with their vote on whether he should continue with the cheek kissing, the vast majority of them said he should keep it up. It seems to have been a good idea for him because he ended up marrying one of those contestants he kissed. 

Today the show is hosted by Steve Harvey, and the comedian keeps contestants and viewers alike laughing. One of the things fans love is when he loses his composure in response to the contestants.

The entire show is unscripted, including Harvey’s jokes. But sometimes it’s the contestants’ off-the-cuff responses that really make the show funny, especially when they are very, very wrong. 

The best bad answers

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Some of the funniest moments on the show aren’t the host’s jokes, but when the contestants let their nerves get the best of them, and they blurt out something ridiculous.

A lot of these answers are funny just because they’re so wrong. For example, one person was asked to name an animal with three letters in his name. Their response? Frog. Another time the best example of a yellow fruit someone could come up with was “orange.”

Another time a contestant must have misheard the question, “Name a kind of suit that’s not appropriate for the office.” The response was “chicken noodle.”

Where do the questions and answers come from?

How do the show’s producers come up with so many questions and answers? According to Mental Floss, writers for the show submit about 100 questions every day to the show’s executive producer, Gaby Johnston. Johnston then winnows down the choices to 30 or 40 of the best, then passes them along to the next step. 

The show uses a polling firm called Applied Research-West. The firm calls people randomly to ask them the questions. To keep the process discrete, the callers don’t tell the people they speak to that they’re collecting responses for Family Feud. In about three weeks, those questions are used on the show. 

Family Feud is unlike any other game show, which is why its fans love it so much. A lot of work goes into preparing for each episode, but once the pieces are in place it seems like anything could happen — and often does.