Funny: What's My Line?

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    CBS (1950-1967) 
  • There were many occasions when one or more members of the panel had a specific but incorrect idea of a guest's line, but the questions they asked to pursue this were unintentionally suggestive.note 
    • On the 20 September 1953 episode, the second guest was Elfrida Fritz of Buffalo, New York, who repaired zippers. The first questions were asked by Steve Allen, who, after establishing that a product was involved and that it was a mechanical device, was clearly thinking it was a typewriter. This led to such unintentionally hilarious questions as "Might you possibly find one or more of these in a very well-equipped office?", "Would any efficient secretary know how to operate one?", and finally, "Would it be safe to say when you're using one of these and you get to the end of a line, a bell rings?", each one greeted by increasingly loud laughter from the audience.
    • On the 3 March 1957 episode, the second guest was Arch Poole of Rocky River, Ohio, who ran a diaper service. Martin Gabel established that there was a product involved, and Dorothy Kilgallen established that it was a product that could be worn by human beings, but the audience completely lost it when she then asked if anyone on the panel could wear the product, and again when, after establishing that it was something that could be worn by both sexes, she asked if Bennett could wear the product (John Daly replied, "You mean now?"). Dorothy eventually deduced what the product was, but immediately passed to Bennett, who said "So, this is something that protects the wee ones from, uh..." Which is as far as he got before the audience and the panel fell about laughing again - in John Daly's case, so much so that he got up from his chair for a few seconds to regain his composure.
  • Ronald Reagan's appearance as the mystery guest on the 19 July 1953 episode (long before his political career began). He changes his voice with every answer, prompting one of the panelists to ask "Do you have only one head?" Then, when Dorothy Kilgallen starts to ask about King's Row, he turns to Daly and mutters "I don't like her."
  • During the Steve Allen era, after the question "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" had become almost standard during the interrogation of guests, the producers used up the last few minutes of the 11 October 1953 episode by sending out Fred Burg, who made... breadboxes. When Dorothy Kilgallen, having established that Burg dealt with a product that would be found on the ground floor of a two-story home, asked, "But it's not larger than... a breadbox?", the audience fell about laughing. As a breadbox is not technically larger than itself, questioning passed to Steve Allen, who put two and two together.
    Steve Allen: I'm gonna take the- the first stab in the dark in a, in a year, is it a breadbox, by any chance? (laughter from audience, panel, and John Daly)
    John Daly: (pointing at Steve Allen) What does Mr. Burg do with breadboxes?
    Steve Allen: He hides in them!
  • When Bob Hope appeared as the mystery guest on the 12 December 1954 episode, he signed in as "Bing Crosby." Then during the questioning, Arlene Francis, having established that he was a comedian who often gets the girl but had thinning hair, guessed "Are you Bing Crosby?" The crowd completely lost it.note 
  • When Fred Astaire is the mystery guest on the 3 April 1955 broadcast, Dorothy Kilgallen asks, "When you walk down the street do men whistle at you?" This causes Fred to assume the funniest expression, and John Daly has to lean on him, he's trying so hard to contain his laughter. Fred and John consult on how to answer the question, but both break up at the first attempt to give an answer. They finally calm down, then the audience laughs, so Fred and John lose control again. John finally gives the answer as "no", but he still chuckles as he says it.
  • The guest panellist on the 29 April 1956 episode was comedian and ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who appeared with his dummy, Jerry Mahoney. The Mystery Guest for the episode was Winchell's fellow ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who appeared with one of his dummies, Mortimer Snerd (indeed, Bergen signed in using Snerd's name). When Winchell successfully identified Bergen, Mahoney inevitably tried to persuade Snerd that the two of them should leave Bergen and Winchell and form their own double act, suggesting "I could work your head, you could work mine!"
  • Bob Hope appeared as the mystery guest again with his daughter Linda on the 24 June 1956 episode to promote the film That Certain Feeling. Although Linda gave most of the answers, as her voice was less familiar to the panel than that of her father, it didn't take them long to deduce Bob's presence as the mystery guest. However, instead of identifying him, they decided to have some fun:
    Arlene Francis: I have a certain feeling we know who this is. (laughter from audience and panel) It's Jack Benny! (bigger laughter from audience and panel)
    Bob Hope: (laughs) Yes!
    Arlene Francis: (through laughter) I'm wrong?
    John Daly: Yes, you're wrong, Miss Francis.
    Bennett Cerf: Is it Miss Saint and her accompany-ist?
    John Daly: No! (laughs and flips over four cards at once) Three down, forty-seven to go, Miss Kilgallen!
    Dorothy Kilgallen: Pinky Lee. (more audience laughter)
    John Daly: Five down and five to go, Mr. Winchell.
    Paul Winchell: Laurel and Hardy.
    John Daly: Six down and four to go, Miss Francis!
    Arlene Francis: (laughs) B.S. Pully!
    John Daly: Seven down and three to go, Mr. Cerf!
    Bennett Cerf: Zeppo Marx!
    John Daly: Eight down and two to go, Miss Kilgallen!
    Dorothy Kilgallen: Gregory Peck.
    John Daly: Nine down and one to go, Mr. Winchell...
    Paul Winchell: Kukla, Fran, and Ollie!
    John Daly: (flips over last card) No, 'fraid not.
    Arlene Francis: He needs the money, that's why we wouldn't guess it.
  • The 11 November 1956 episode with Jerry Lewis on the panel featured a guest who was...a bit rotund. Lewis jokingly suggested that the lady made diet pills — which turned out to be her occupation. note 
    Jerry Lewis: But doesn't she take them at any time?
  • Vincent Price's appearance as the mystery guest on the 16 December 1956 episode. He sings his answers. In French!
  • Two words: Salvador Dalí. The appearance of one of the 20th century's great surrealists on the 27 January 1957 episode could only herald one of the series' most hilariously surreal rounds, as seemingly every question the panel asked was given a "Yes" answer (as technically, Dalí had been a performer in various media, written books, and been an athlete of some sort).
    Arlene Francis: Does he ever do any drawing, like comic strips?
    John Daly: Do you ever do any drawing, like comic strips?
    Salvador Dalí: Yes. (gales of laughter from the audience)
    Arlene Francis: "Yes"?
    John Daly: (after pretending to wave goodnight to the audience and leave the stage, he returns to his seat) Our guest says "Yes", he does drawings like comic strips.
    Arlene Francis: Is there something quite unusual about our guest? (more laughter)
    John Daly: I beg your pardon, Arlene? I missed that last one.
    Arlene Francis: I just asked if there was something unusual because every thing he does the audience laughs about. (sure enough, the audience laughs again)
    John Daly: No, there's nothing unusual, actually, this sort of thing goes on all the time!
    Arlene Francis: Uh... I'm gonna pass to Bennett.
    John Daly: Mr. Cerf.
    Bennett Cerf: You are a human being? (still more audience laughter)
    John Daly: Very much so, Bennett, very much so.
    Bennett Cerf: There's no animal or dummy out there with you.
    John Daly: That's right, there is no animal or dummy out there with him except, perhaps... (adjusts his bow tie)
    Bennett Cerf: (taking the obvious bait) I'm not talking about the master of ceremonies.
    John Daly: (standing up in mock outrage) That'll be all, Bennett! That'll be all!
  • When Ed Sullivan appeared as the mystery guest on the 14 September 1958 episode, after trolling the panel by giving wrong answers to several questions, he had the following exchange with John Daly:
    Ed Sullivan: (disguised voice) Mr. Dah-ly, why they wear masks?
    John Daly: Why they wear masks? So they can't see what's going on.
    Ed Sullivan: Then I wear mask too. (produces a caveman-like rubber mask and puts it over his head, derailing Daly's attempt to explain his last answer)note 
  • When Andy Griffith was the mystery guest on the 3 May 1959 episode, we got this:
    Dorothy Kilgallen: Do you sing?
    Griffith: (putting on a VERY deep voice) BEAUTIFULLY.
  • British Line chairman Eamonn Andrews filled in for John Daly on the 28 June 1959 episode, and as the panel were quizzing final guest Becky Swanzy (a salesgirl of false teeth) of Charlotte, North Carolina, he invoked Exact Words to hilarious effect:
    Arlene Francis: Did we say that, uh, Miss, uh, (in a Southern accent) Miss Charlotte, North Carolina, (in her normal voice) uh, that she was salaried?
    Eamonn Andrews: Ah, we did, yes.
    Arlene Francis: We did say that. Did we say that she does work for a profit-making organisation?
    Eamonn Andrews: No, we didn't say that, that's six down and four to go. (flips over card; laughter from audience and panel)
    Arlene Francis: (mock outrage) It's murder! It's murder!
    Eamonn Andrews: (pointing over his shoulder to the opposite side of the stage to the panel) I'm leaving that way!
  • Groucho Marx, who for most of Line's run was hosting You Bet Your Life.
    • Groucho's first appearance on the panel (September 20, 1959). As you might have guessed, Hilarity Ensues. The fact that the guests include a jail warden who looks uncannily like Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (who, the day before the episode was recorded, was denied permission to visit Disneyland because his security could not be guaranteed) and female professional wrestler Judy "Barefoot Contessa" Grable just helps things along.
      • Groucho inevitably doesn't bother paying attention to the questions asked by Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Bennett Cerf, or the answers they receive, when asking his own questions - which, though not unusual What's My Line? questions (if a guest makes a household product: "Is your product used in the kitchen?"; if the guest provides a service that involves touching clients: "Do you touch them above the waist?"), are thus complete non sequiturs in context.
        (so far, the panel have established only that the first guest, Henry McFarland, is salaried and does not work for a profit-making organisation)
        Groucho Marx: Is this product found in your kitchen?
        John Daly: (laughs) We haven't arrived at a product yet! If you want to take a shot at it...
        Groucho Marx: Well, he must have a kitchen!
        John Daly: He's got a kitchen, I'm sure. Is that the product?
        Groucho Marx: Do you make candy?
        John Daly: (through laughter) No, that's two down-
        Groucho Marx: Well, what do you do for a living?
        John Daly: Two down and-
        Groucho Marx: You must have some occupation!
        Henry McFarland: Well, I have a kitchen!
        Groucho Marx: You have a kitchen. Well, stand up and let's see it!
        John Daly: (referring to the guest's rather large size) That's really a bay window.
      • Groucho's questions remain so surreal that some of his fellow panellists become a bit rattled:
        (the panel have so far established only that the guest, Judy Grable, is not connected with tourism or instruction, but works indoors)
        Groucho Marx: Is this product found in your kitchen? (laughter) Is this product that you manufacture... (more laughter; Groucho has brief, inaudible conversations with both Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis)
        John Daly: Just a moment, Groucho, Miss Grable has just told me she didn't get the question, I told her she was lucky! Now let's start all over again!
        Groucho Marx: Well, she could be even luckier, she's not going to get the answer. Now this product you manufacture, is it sold... would you be apt to find this in the living room, or the dining room, or the kitchen?
        John Daly: Well, she can't answer that question "yes" or "no"...
        Groucho Marx: Well, she must make something, a woman can't make a living just being a blonde... although I've heard of a few who have! (gales of laughter from audience and panel)
        John Daly: To every statement or question that you- every statement you've made, every question you've asked, except that last one, the answer is "No". (flips over card) That's three down, seven to go, Miss Kilgallen.
        Groucho Marx: I certainly get through quickly on this show! Up to you, Mrs. Kilgallen- uh, Miss Kilgallen.
        Dorothy Kilgallen: (trying to regain her composure) Miss Grable... are the men and women that you come in contact with more or less infrequently or frequently, as the case may be, are they grown-up human beings?
        Judy Grable: Yes.
        Dorothy Kilgallen: Now, would you say that you deal with more sex- more with one sex- (too late; the audience and the rest of the panel have heard her Freudian Slip and fallen about laughing, and she quickly joins in, embarrassed, as Groucho nods at the camera and shakes her hand proudly) He made me do it! (points at Groucho)
        Groucho Marx: You think I'm the only one that's obsessed with that subject, hm? Boy, what a Freudian panel this is up here! People would only talk!
        John Daly: Dorothy, before we pursue this subject any further...
        Dorothy Kilgallen: I don't want to pursue it any further!
        Groucho Marx: Then get her up here and I'll pursue it!
      • Finally, at the beginning of the Mystery Guest round, John Daly is already nearly paralysed by laughter as Groucho has his blindfold in seemingly every position on his face except over his eyes; when Claudette Colbert is brought out as the guest, Groucho's blindfold is over his nose instead of his eyes ("My eyes are prettier," he explains), and John Daly disqualifies him from questioning. Not that this stops the episode's Running Gag from appearing again:
        Dorothy Kilgallen: Are you in the motion picture business?
        Claudette Colbert: (deep, throaty voice) Да.
        John Daly: Mr. Cerf.
        Bennett Cerf: Are you related to Groucho Marx?
        Claudette Colbert: (pressing one nostril closed) Нет!
        John Daly: (laughs) One down, nine to go, Miss Francis.
        Arlene Francis: (through laughter) Groucho wants to know if your product is found in the kitchen. (massive laughter from the audience and John Daly) No, I had- I had the blindfold half off looking at Groucho so I know it's a lady but I promise you I didn't see any-
        Groucho Marx: How do you know it's a lady?
        Arlene Francis: I saw her skirt. Isn't that a sign?
        Groucho Marx: (shakes head) No, that's no indication at all. Is it a woman? (Claudette Colbert is struggling to keep from laughing and giving herself away to the other panellists) Is it up to me?
        John Daly: No. You've had it.
        Groucho Marx: What do you mean, don't I get a chance at this?
        John Daly: No! The blindfold was inadequate to its purpose...
        Groucho Marx: (removes his [upside-down] blindfold [from below his nose]) Well I know who it is, so I'll drop out. It's Mae West.
    • During the Mystery Guest segment on Groucho's return on the 15 November 1964 episode (featuring Anne Bancroft as the Mystery Guest), the panel had already racked up nine "No" answers, and a stumped Dorothy Kilgallen passed to Groucho, reasoning that at least he would have something funny to say. She was right:
      Groucho (wearing his glasses over his blindfold): Are you an old Buick?
    • He also appeared at least twice as a Mystery Guest (October 13, 1963 and April 23, 1967), signing in as "Mr. + Mrs. John Smith" (1963) and "Take The Lead Out" (1967). In typical Groucho form, he seldom answered the panel's questions truthfully, requiring frequent corrections by John Daly.
  • John Daly was noted for, if the panel asked a question that could be answered "yes" or "no" depending on interpretation, first conferring with the guest and then giving a convoluted speech which almost invariably raised more questions than it answered. However, when the famously verbally dextrous actor and singer Danny Kaye appeared as a guest on the 5 November 1961 episode, he turned the tables on Daly by asking a ridiculously convoluted (and deliberately content-free) question:
    (the panel have established that self-employed guest Harry Ellswood Jr. makes a product that can be "used up" but is not eaten, drunk, or held in the mouth without being swallowed)note 
    Danny Kaye: In this product, does the chemical content insofar as the letter of the instance of the product, can you, in turn, with a degree of honesty, feel that there has been, not- not concerning those people who generally don't use it, but would there be - would there be insofar as, knowing a group of people as seated here, could you?
    (laughter from audience, panel, Daly, and Ellswood)
    Harry Ellswood Jr.: Could you please repeat the question? (more laughter)
    Danny Kaye: I'd be happy to. Conference! (puts his arms around Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis and kisses each of them on the cheek) I don't really want a conference, I want smooches!
  • After stepping down as a regular, Steve Allen made a number of return appearances as both a guest on the panel and a mystery guest. On the 4 October 1964 episode with Buddy Hackett as a guest panellist, Allen was the episode's mystery guest, but things didn't quite go according to plan thanks to a verbal slip from John Daly:
    Dorothy Kilgallen: Are you a performer in show business?
    Steve Allen: (loud whisper) Yeeeessss.
    John Daly: Mr. Allen- I- (laughter from panel as Daly looks embarrassed) Mr. Cerf.
    Bennett Cerf: I'll make believe I didn't hear that.
    John Daly: You can't. I'm not kidding...
    Bennett Cerf: Are you a comedian?
    Steve Allen: (in his normal voice) I'm not as funny as John is right now!
    (laughter and applause; Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf remove their blindfolds, but Arlene Francis and Buddy Hackett leave theirs on)
    Steve Allen: All right, Buddy, three guesses, who is it? (Buddy Hackett starts to remove his blindfold) Your time's up, Buddy!
  • The final installment featured John Daly as the mystery guest, swapping positions between host and guest spot and using a high-pitched voice. It was something that was always a planned backup if for some reason they couldn't fill an actual mystery guest, so when this never happened, they decided to use it for the final show.
  • Eli Wallach's impressive falsetto when he, Anne Jackson and Alan Arkin were the mystery guests. The he proceeds to answer "No" in a low, breathy voice when asked a different question.

    Syndicated (1968-1975) 
  • Early in the syndicated run, panelist Anita Gillette accidentally introduced Allen Ludden as "Allen Funt" (host of Candid Camera). Moments later, after Wally Bruner was introduced and took his seat, he welcomed the home audience, "Welcome to Candid What's My Line?"
  • During the Larry Blyden era, a 1973 episode saw, following a segment about a pizza maker, guest panelists Gene Rayburn and Alan Alda toss pizza dough rounds in the air ... only for one to be tossed SO high it landed in the overhead lights and didn't come down. The audience was uproarious in their laughter as the cameras focused on the round being stuck high above the stage.