Win Ben Stein's Money

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Win Ben Stein's Money
Win Ben Steins Money.jpg
Genre Game show
Created by Al Burton
Donnie Brainard
Directed by Dennis Rosenblatt
Presented by Ben Stein
Jimmy Kimmel
Nancy Pimental
Sal Iacono
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 715
Executive producer(s) Byron Glore
Andrew J. Golder
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Buena Vista Television
Valleycrest Productions, Ltd.
Original network Comedy Central
Original release July 28, 1997 (1997-07-28) – January 31, 2003 (2003-01-31)

Win Ben Stein's Money is an American television game show created by Al Burton and Donnie Brainard that aired first-run episodes from July 28, 1997 to January 31, 2003 on the Comedy Central cable network, with repeat episodes airing until May 8, 2003. The show featured three contestants who competed to answer general knowledge questions in order to win the grand prize of $5,000 from the show's host, Ben Stein. In the second half of each episode, Stein participated as a "common" contestant in order to defend his money from being taken by his competitors. The show won five Daytime Emmy awards,[1] with Stein and Jimmy Kimmel, the show's original co-host, sharing the Outstanding Game Show Host award in 1999.

As noted in a disclaimer during the closing credits, prize money won by contestants was paid from a prize budget furnished by the producers of the show. Any money left over in that budget at the end of a season was given to Stein. If the total amount paid out during a season exceeded that budget, the production company paid the excess, so Stein was never at risk of losing money from his own pocket.

Stein's co-host was Jimmy Kimmel for the first three years. Kimmel left in 2000 and was replaced by Nancy Pimental, who co-hosted the program through 2001. Kimmel's cousin, Sal Iacono, who took over the role in 2002, was the show's last co-host. Although Kimmel left the program in 2000, he occasionally made guest appearances afterward, and hosted College Week episodes in 2001.

Game format[edit]

Round 1[edit]

The game began with three contestants and $5,000 in Stein's bank. Five categories were always available for contestants to choose from, with pun-laden titles hinting at the questions' content. After a contestant chose a category, Stein asked a toss-up question that was assigned a dollar value ($50, $100, or $150), depending on the level of difficulty.

Contestants were equipped with signaling devices, and the first contestant to ring-in on the toss-up earned the right to answer the question. If the contestant answered correctly, the question's value was deducted from Stein's bank and added to the contestant's score; if the answer was incorrect, the other two contestants could ring-in and attempt to answer. There was no score penalty for answering incorrectly. After a contestant gave a correct answer, Stein asked the correctly-responding contestant a follow-up question in the same category for an additional $50. Again, if the contestant answered incorrectly, either of the other two contestants could ring-in and attempt to answer. If none of the contestants correctly answered the original toss-up, the follow-up question became a second toss-up for which all three contestants were eligible to ring-in and answer for $50. After both questions were asked, a new category replaced the one selected and the contestant who had given the last correct answer chose the next category.

At the end of the first round, the contestant with the lowest score was eliminated from the game and that contestant's money (if any) was added back into Stein's bank. If there was a tie for second place after the first round, a tie-breaker question was asked to determine which contestant advanced to the next round. If a contestant answered the tie-breaker incorrectly, their opponent advanced to the second round by default.

Round 2[edit]

Stein himself defended his money by becoming a contestant in the second round, replacing the contestant eliminated at the end of the first round. The co-host took over asking questions, with the disclaimer that "from this point on, Ben has no advance knowledge of any of the questions to be asked."

Like the first round, the second round also contained five categories at a time, but the question values increased to the range of $200 to $500 in increments of $100, again depending on difficulty. Every category in this round consisted of a single toss-up question, with no follow-up. Stein chose the first category. As in the earlier round, any money earned by the other two contestants was deducted from Stein's bank. When Stein answered a question correctly, his bank total remained unchanged. Since whatever was in the bank was considered to be his total and was already displayed, his podium's scoreboard displayed a dollar sign.

At the end of the round, the lower-scoring contestant was again eliminated from the game, with that contestant's winnings going back into Stein's bank. The other contestant kept the money earned and advanced to the bonus round to compete head-to-head against Stein for the grand prize of $5,000. In the event of a tie, a tie-breaker question was again used to decide which contestant advanced (without Stein answering).

If at any point in the first two rounds of play (excluding tie-breaker questions) a contestant responded in the form of a question—as is the method of response on Jeopardy!—Stein or the co-host placed a dunce cap on the contestant, who then typically wore it for the duration of the round. This did not, however, affect the scoring.

Best of 10 Test of Knowledge[edit]

In the bonus round, the Best of 10 Test of Knowledge, both Stein and the winner of the second round were placed in isolation booths so that neither could hear the other's answers. The contestant had the choice of playing first or second. The person playing first was given 60 seconds to answer a total of ten questions, and could pass if he or she chose to do so; however, questions which were passed or answered incorrectly could not be returned to during the round. After the first person played the round, the other was given 60 seconds to answer the same ten questions.

If the contestant answered more questions correctly than Stein, the contestant won the entire $5,000 grand prize that Stein had put into the bank at the beginning of the show. If Stein answered more questions correctly, the contestant kept only the money won in the first two rounds. If the round ended in a tie, the contestant won an additional $1,000.

The isolation booth for the contestant was plain, with a hardwood stool and a bare hanging light bulb, while Stein's booth was more luxurious, with a leather wing-back chair and other lavish furnishings. Each booth also contained a clock that showed how much time was left - a cheap electric wall clock in the player's booth, an ornate desk clock in Stein's. In later seasons, the contestant's booth was made to appear in disrepair, with a large crack running down the back wall.

"Ben Stein's Cup" episode[edit]

At the halfway point and the end of the fourth season, three of the best contestants of the season who had earlier won $5,000 returned for a special "Ben Stein's Cup" episode, for a chance to win $25,000. In the first round, question values were $200, $400, and $600, with follow-up questions worth $200. In the second round, questions were worth $800–$2,000 in increments of $400. On both episodes, the winner attempted to defeat Stein for the entire $25,000.

Foreign versions[edit]


Win Roy & H.G.'s Money, an Australian version hosted by Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson, aired on Seven Network from 1999–2000. The grand prize was AUD$5,000.

United Kingdom[edit]

Main article: Win Beadle's Money


Various pieces of classical music were used as the themes. The opening theme was the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, which was repeated to begin the second round, and again if the champion won the $5,000. The closing theme was Ride of the Valkyries, from Richard Wagner's The Valkyrie. Other classical music pieces used on the show included:


  1. ^ "Awards section of Win Ben Stein's Money entry on". Retrieved 24 June 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
Succeeded by
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire