Groucho Marx had been a sensation in vaudeville and movies as part of the Marx Brothers, but his radio career didn’t take off until 1947, when producer John Guedel convinced him to host a new quiz program called You Bet Your Life.
The game itself was fairly straightforward: three couples were brought onstage, asked four questions and given $20 to wager as they chose. There was also a “secret word” which could net contestants extra money, and a jackpot question for the most successful couple.
The key to the show’s success was the quick-witted Groucho. Rarely at a loss for words, Marx freely engaged in unrehearsed banter with the contestants and announcer George Fenneman. In 1948, You Bet Your Life received a Peabody Award, which cited Groucho as “the Dean of all wise-crackers in this country.”
You Bet Your Life ran on radio from 1947 to 1956, over ABC, CBS, and finally NBC. The show also ran on television from 1950 to 1961.
Groucho Marx died on August 19, 1977.
You Bet Your Life was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.