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You Bet Your Life February 18, 1954

You Bet Your Life was nominally a quiz show, but the real appeal of the show is listening to Groucho interview the contestants before they get to the quiz part of the show. It's obvious the show runners knew this, as each team of two contestants only gets asked 4 questions. The couples get to choose a dollar amount for the question from between 10 and 100 dollars. The more the money the harder the question. There is also a secret word that if spoken will get the team $100. The team who wins the most gets to come back at the end to answer a question for $3000.

The first team of this episode consists of a banker and a dancer. They are both single, and Groucho goes back and forth between making a pass at the young lady himself and setting her up to be married to the banker. The best joke in this is when the banker says that deposits in the bank of up to $10,000 are insured by the federal government. Groucho responds by asking him if he's heard that the federal government is about 280 billion dollars in the hole. The second couple has a man who is the son of the deposed president of San Salvador, and a woman who works in a pen factory. Groucho seems more interested in the pens than in the revolution that led to the man's family fleeing their country of origin. The best joke here is when the lady is explaining that girls test every pen by writing Johnson. Groucho jokes that Johnson must get a lot of mail. He then asks why they write Johnson, after all he is already married? She replies that Johnson has all the right curves and straight lines. Groucho responds that she ought to see Mrs. Johnson.

The third couple is the most fun. The man is from New Zealand, and Groucho has a lot of fun intentionally mistaking Auckland for Oakland. The woman is a 78 year old woman who steals the show. When Groucho calls her Mrs. she says she is a Miss. Groucho says he's sorry and she replies that she's not. She then asks Groucho to get rid of his iconic cigar, and Groucho's reaction to this is easily the highlight of a very funny episode. Unfortunately, they only get $90 in the quiz, better than the $80 the first couple won but not enough to beat the second couple's $230.

In between the couples there are various bits, like the De Soto commercial where they tout the new technologies their cars have like automatic transmissions and power steering. There is also a letter stating that George Fenneman has been voted the best t.v. announcer. Groucho one liners about how he'd better not ask for more money then get him giggling during his introduction of the next couple. Then there is a commercial about the Groucho Marx used car program that they try to work in like it's part of the show, only George is quite obviously not wearing the same clothes as in the rest of the show. At the end the second couple comes back and correctly answers the final question, winning $3000. The show is a lot of fun, and Groucho proves yet again that he is arguably the funniest man who ever lived. He was the master at telling a joke that the censors had no way of objecting to, but still somehow came across as being dirty. He makes even the dullest guest seem interesting, and the more he puts them off balance the better his routine gets. Watching an old black and white game show may not seem like great fun, but take my advice and check this one out. Incidentally February 18, 1954 is the day that both John Travolta and the Church of Scientology were born. 


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