Family Feud has been one of America’s most popular game shows over the years, ranking up in the top three with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. “The Feud” debuted on July 12, 1976 with Richard Dawson as the host. Since the beginning of the program, it has had three separate runs with six different hosts (Dawson, Combs, Anderson, Karn, O’Hurley, Harvey). Arguably, Family Feud is currently in its most popular run with current host Steve Harvey, as the show has been shaped with a more risquÃ© survey base in order to elicit dirty and hilarious responses.
Mary Margaret Pendleton is not a stranger to Kentucky Sports Radio, or trivia competition. She has appeared twice on the radio show as part of two different “Shannon vs. KSR Women” Trivia Contests. Her record is 1-1 against “The Dude”, and she is looking forward to the possibility of having the rubber match in a future iteration of the contest. Until that happens, Mary has been sharpening her game show skills by appearing on Family Feud with four other members of her Pendleton family. Mary took on the competition with her husband Chris, brother-in-law Britton, sister-in-law Liz and father-in-law Clay last summer with episodes having recently aired over the past couple of weeks. I recently caught up with Mary, whom I have known for quite some time, and got to ask her some questions I’ve always wanted to know about the ever-popular game show staple.
Richmond: Walk me a little bit through the casting process to be on Family Feud.
Mary Margaret Pendleton: It was about this time last year that we heard Family Feud was holding auditions in Louisville. It was the week my husband and his twin brother were turning 30, so I thought it would be fun to email the show and see if we could get an audition. I sent a picture of our family and wrote a little bit about us, and emailed the contact person for the audition. They responded and gave us a time to show up for the audition. The auditions were at the Convention Center in downtown Louisville and when we showed up, it was packed! The auditions consisted of two families being called and playing a mock round of the game. The crew from Family Feud emphasized that they were looking for enthusiasm over anything else, not necessarily who won the mock round of the game. I think we were one of the last families to be called, we were sweaty and a bit tired, but we did our best. After our “round,” the producer gave us a slip of paper saying they liked us and we needed to stick around. I’d say they gave this slip of paper to about a third of the families that auditioned. We then waited around a bit and the executive producer of the show interviewed us on camera and said we’d receive a postcard within six weeks if we were selected to be on the show.
R: What is day of episode taping like? How many families are waiting to play, where do you wait when your episode isn’t being taped?
MMP: The show tapes in Atlanta, and it was a great experience! We were flown to Atlanta on a Sunday in July and were in studio on Monday, July 20th and Tuesday, July 21st. There are ~8 families there each day that could be on the show. If you’re not one of the families on the show, you sit in the studio audience or in a green room stocked with food and snacks. 🙂 The days we were there they taped either 4 or 5 shows per day. The first day there was a family from Ohio that kept winning, they ended up winning the car by winning their fifth episode. So, on Monday we didn’t get on the show. Tuesday, we were the first episode that was filmed. We played the Phillips family from Chicago first and the Stowers family from Georgia second. Each day before filming, you play a practice round in front of the producers and they set the lineup for the day. You don’t find out you’re going to be on the show until right before filming, so we were excited when they tapped us on the shoulder for the first episode on Tuesday.
R: Were you able to have other family members with you there at the taping?
MMP: We had 8-10 friends and family in the studio audience but we were under strict instructions not to make eye contact with them or acknowledge them if we saw them outside the studio during filming. It was kind of awkward because everyone shared one restroom so you literally had to pretend you didn’t know people even though they were right beside you. They collect your cell phones when you first arrive, so the contestants and the studio audience members don’t have cell phones while they’re taping or waiting to tape.
R: In your first episode, to be honest, the Phillips family did a lot of the heavy lifting, winning all four of the head to head match-ups at the podium. What is the strategy in getting all of the steals you had to win the game?
MMP: We definitely tried to win at the podium, they just beat us at the buzzer! However, it worked out well because we were able to steal almost every question. In watching copious amounts of Family Feud over the last few months, it seems like the team who wins the buzzer and choose to play the question has the advantage, since they can get all the “easy” answers. However, on our first episode we got lucky because the Phillips family left some answers on the board that weren’t too hard for us to come up with.
R: Family Feud today is more known for ridiculous answers than the actual game itself. Britton had what I think is a classic moment in mishearing what Steve Harvey said when reading a question:
R: Did you have any other funny moments from the episode that didn’t make air?
MMP: There’s a hype guy named Ruben who gets the audience pumped up and plays Steve Harvey during the practice rounds before filming begins. He is hilarious! There were tons of funny moments that didn’t make air because so much gets edited.
R: Despite losing each round at the buzzer, you did prevail and win the main game. How did you decide who would take on the famous Fast Money round?
MMP: In preparing for the show, Chris and I would watch Family Feud episodes and practice the Fast Money round in our living room (dorky, I know). We would stand up by the TV and listen to Steve to get the feeling of being under pressure and on the show. It is WAY different when the lights are on you and the studio audience is right in front of you (probably 200 people). Chris and I had a pretty good chemistry with our answers, so the team decided we would be the ones to play!
R: Is there really a sound-proof booth where you wait for the first person to finish playing Fast Money?
MMP: Chris said it was just putting on headphones backstage with loud music playing while I was giving my answers. Funny enough, the sound was “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms so he was pleasantly surprised.
R: After you won $20,000 in the first episode, how long is the turnaround between that and your next episode? Did that take the pressure off for episode two?
MMP: The second episode was filmed right after the first one, there was probably a 20 minute break for Steve Harvey to change suits (he wears a different suit for every episode) so we waited in the green room. We were pretty excited from the first episode, so yes, it took the pressure off. Our goal was to win one show and one Fast Money so we were just excited to be there. I will note that I was 6 months pregnant and my feet were hurting pretty badly so I wasn’t too disappointed to not win the second show.
R: What is Steve Harvey like when the cameras are off? Is he still as charming and funny as it seems on TV?
MMP: Steve Harvey was awesome, really friendly and had everyone cracking up. He asked us about where we from, what we did for jobs, and spent about 30 minutes with each family. He is a little saltier when the cameras aren’t rolling, but those moments were some of my favorite from the whole experience because he’s so hilarious. During the commercial breaks, he takes questions from the studio audience and does kind of a motivational talk, so he really invests a lot in the people there.
R: You mentioned losing in the second episode. What is the exit process like, once you’re finally off the show?
MMP: Once you lose, you are given a $500 debit card from a sponsor and you go to the side of the stage while the other team plays Fast Money. We were excited for the Stowers family because they were very deserving and were so glad to be there. They went on to appear on four more episodes and were one question away from winning the car. After the show ended, we were taken to the green room to sign a bunch of papers and they got our tax information since we won money. You are told any winnings will be mailed within 90 days of the show’s air date. The producers and all the staff were super to work with and made the whole two days awesome. We ate lunch in the green room and then a shuttle took us back to our hotel and we flew out later that night.
We’d like to thank Mary Margaret Pendleton for helping us with her interview. If you’ve ever been on a game show or reality television, we would love to talk to you about the process. Shoot us an email at [email protected]