You Bet Your Life: Groucho, Johnny and Bill

Groucho Marx was one of the funniest entertainers of all time.

What's most amazing about Groucho is that he was, off the cuff, as witty and funny as the scripted characters he played in the Marx Brothers movies.

In the 1950s, he hosted the TV game show, You Bet Your Life.
Well, it was kind of a game show. Actually, it was a half hour showcase of Groucho at his ad-lib best.

The core of the show was Groucho conversing with the contestants, producing some of the best television ever.

No Failure to Communicate here...
After being Groucho's sexy foil on You Bet Your Life, this contestant, actress Joy Harmon, went on to fame as the Car Wash Girl in Paul Newman's Cool Hand Luke, a character known well by every adolescent Baby Boomer male.

The rumor was that actual filming of You Bet Your Life ran for an hour or more. But after all of Groucho's racy bits were edited out, the show clocked in at thirty minutes.

Who Do You Trust?

Before he hosted the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was the host of a TV show very similar to You Bet Your Life called, Who Do You Trust? and for a time, Do You Trust Your Wife?

Young Johnny showed the promise of the TV master to come, but he seemed surprisingly restrained and very shy compared to the irrepressible Groucho.

In the game show's second season, Ed McMahon joined the show as Johnny's announcer and sidekick. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But Who Do You Trust? wasn't Johnny's first television gig. A very young and very skinny Johnny hosted Carson's Cellar on a local station.

In this clip you see the possible beginnings of the famous "How cold was it?" routine immortalized years later on the Tonight Show.

Interestingly, after Jack Paar left the Tonight Show, it was Groucho, who had done time as one of the show's substitute hosts, who introduced Johnny Carson as the new star of the program.

You Bet Your Life Redux

Late in his life, Groucho suggested to Bill Cosby, then a young struggling comic, that he might be the perfect host for a reboot of You Bet Your Life.

In the early 1990s, Bill hosted his own version of the show.
Cosby seemed to channel the spirit of Groucho but the program never found an audience and was canceled after only one season.