Information Please

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Information Please (Radio)
Created by Dan Golenpaul
Presented by Clifton Fadiman
Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons 13
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel NBC Radio
Original run May 17, 1938 – April 22, 1951

Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called "information" but is now called "directory assistance".

The series was moderated by Clifton Fadiman. A panel of experts would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. For the first few shows, a listener was paid two dollars for a question that was used, and five dollars more if the experts could not answer it correctly. When the show got its first sponsor (Canada Dry), the total amounts were increased to five and ten dollars respectively. A complete Encyclopædia Britannica was later added to the prize for questions that stumped the panel. The amounts went up to ten and twenty-five dollars when Lucky Strike took over sponsorship of the program.

Regulars[edit]

Panel regulars included writer-actor-pianist Oscar Levant and newspaper columnists and renowned wits and intellectuals Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran. All the panelists were well-versed in a wide range of topics, though each had a specialty. Music and film questions were often addressed to Levant. Adams was well known for his mastery of poetry, popular culture and Gilbert and Sullivan. Kieran was an expert in natural history, sports and literature. A typical question would have three or four parts and would require the panelists to get a majority of the questions right, lest they lose the prize money.

The show would always have a fourth guest panelist, usually either a celebrity, a politician or writer. Guest panelists included Fred Allen, Leonard Bernstein, Boris Karloff, Clare Boothe Luce, Dorothy Parker, S. J. Perelman, Sigmund Spaeth, Rex Stout, Jan Struther, Deems Taylor, Alexander Woollcott, George S. Kaufman, Ruth Gordon, Orson Welles, and a very young Myron "Mike" Wallace.

The show was as much a comedy as a quiz show. The panelists displayed a quick wit in answering the questions, reveling in puns and malapropisms. (For instance, once the panel was asked to supply a common household expression. Adams: "Please pass the salt." Kieran: "The front doorbell's ringing." Levant: "Are you going to stay in that bathroom all day?"[1]) Due to the spontanteous nature of the program, it became the first show for which NBC allowed a prerecorded repeat for the West Coast.

Accolades[edit]

During World War II, the show frequently went on tours from its New York City base to promote the buying of war bonds. Instead of the usual cash prize, a question writer would win a bond. The show received several awards as an outstanding radio quiz show. It is also believed to be the earliest example of the panel game genre.

In 1947, Golenpaul edited the Information Please Almanac, a reference book which continued through the years in different formats (including the website Infoplease).

Television[edit]

Information Please (TV)
Created by Dan Golenpaul
Presented by Clifton Fadiman (June–August)
John McCaffery (August–September)
Country of origin  United States
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Original run June 29 – September 21, 1952

Information Please went to television from June 29 to September 21, 1952 on CBS Television on Sundays at 9:30 PM as a summer replacement for The Fred Waring Show, a musical variety series. Adams and Kieran returned to the show, with Fadiman again as host and two guest celebrities. On August 17, Fadiman was replaced by John McCaffery for the rest of the show's run.

The popularity of the series also led to film shorts (1940–1943) and two card games. The show was satirized by the zany panel of radio's It Pays to Be Ignorant.

A variation of Information Please, this time a program devoted exclusively to music with the same four-member panel format, became popular when it was televised in Los Angeles in 1953. After two years of local success, Musical Chairs became a summer replacement series on NBC Television. The Bill Leyden-hosted game show lasted eleven weeks on the national airwaves.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Zolotow, Maurice (c. 1952). No People Like Show People. New York: Random House. p. 152. 

Other references[edit]

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