Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part II

Welcome to the second part of my interview with Family Feud studio audience host, and warm up man extraordinaire… Russell Fletcher!

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‘Family Feud’ audition host and warm-up person Russell Fletcher

When we left off last week, we were discussing auditioning for the show, and Russell was telling me about one occasion when 27 families had arrived at the audition, and all 27 of them made the cut! Now read on…

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SH: They were all good?

RF: They were all good! And then I put them through another similar warm up and we did another survey. There are 25 questions on that survey, and that’s how we get the surveys for the show. 

SH: So you’re actually polling the people who are auditioning to be contestants?

RF: Well, we do the “we surveyed 100 people and we got the top eight responses to this question”. That is the core of the game show. 

SH: So you’re getting the responses from the people who are coming in to audition?

RF:  Yes, they are writing down on the survey. So there will be 25 questions on the survey; you know, “What would you take to Paris?” and they’ll say “toothbrush”, etcetera. And those completed surveys then go back to the office and someone sits down there and records the top answers. And that goes into our game engine.

SH: So that provides the raw material for the show?

RF: That’s the raw material for the show. 

SH: It’s gleaned from the auditioning contestants?

RF: And also our TV studio audiences as well. 

SH: That’s interesting. 

RF: Then after lunch, I just get them fired up again and we play two families at a time, playing Family Feud. Two of the producers use a whiteboard to record the answers and the scores. We ask a question of each family basically, and I’m also like chatting to them and ribbing them and asking them about themselves… and see how they go in front of the rest of the audience, which is all of the rest of the auditionees. And the producers sit there at a panel table and they’ll make a decision and they will give them a score out of ten, who is coming back. 

SH: And you’re the host for that. Does this happen on the show’s set?

RF: It happens in front of the set, in the same studio. And everyone wants to creep on to the set and hit the buzzers but (as a substitute for the buzzers) we get a chair and cover it with a black cloth, they hit it. The first one to hit. Swiss timing. 

SH: Ah yes – the precision! What do the good contestants do that helps them get to make good for the show?

RF: Well, I don’t make any decisions, but I can tell as soon as people walk in the door whether or not they’re going to have a shot on the show. It is people who present well, camera friendly but doesn’t mean they have to be attractive people with all of their teeth. It can mean they are relaxed and they having fun. A lot of people get nervous, of course. And I say to people it is okay to have nerves, and all that sort of thing. Basically, it’s that “thin-slicing” concept, where your brain can immediately decide whether this person is going to be friend or foe. It is a kind of caveman response. I think we’re all good judges of people instinctively. Sometimes we don’t trust those instincts but I reckon as soon as they walk in the door, I can tell who is going to get on just from the way they are behavingthe way they are talking and the way they are responding to people.

SH: So in that first impression instance. what sticks out about the bad ones?

RF: We had a group of people recently and they looked trashy. Like they looked dirty, like they hadn’t showered. I picked them out and went and had a quiet word to them and said, “How are you doing, guys?” and the poor fellas, they were struggling. I suspected that a couple of them were probably homeless and I wanted them on the show. I was like, “I hope you can come on the show.” I was just trying to coach them to stand up straight, try to smile a lot and just have fun with each other and just stay in the moment and answer the questions and ne playful. But then they got to the interview and it turned out that none of them were related! And the rules of the show are that you have to be related… or to be an in-law at least. 

SH: Related by marriage. Oh, well that’s that. Unfortunately.

RF: It is called Family Feud. 

SH: It is called that. I think that’s a clue. 

RF: It’s not called Mates Show Up Feud. To be fair to people, it is good to put them through the whole process, the interview just so that they can warm up a little bit. At first they might be shy but that little physiological thing that happens to people when they step up to be in front of an audience, or to be in an interview situation… Can they tolerate that kind of pressure? And then can they go further and tolerate being in front of an audience? And get a feel of what it might be like when all the lights are turned on, the cameras are on and there is an audience there as well. Can they open up? Can they be in the moment, can they answer questions? Or are they the kind of people who would get distracted, or get nervous or anxious?.

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And that’s where I’ll have to leave to for this week. I must say, I found this interview with Russell to be a real eye-opener. Now we know where the results of Family Feud‘s famous surveys come from! I had always wondered about that. Next week, there’s even more inside information, including some of the goofiest answers that never made it to air. So for those bloopers and blunders, and loads more stories from behind the scenes, be sure to check in again next week. Until then!

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