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The Joker's Wild
Logo of The Joker's Wild used during the CBS era.
Format Game show
Created by Jack Barry
Presented by Jack Barry (1972-1984)
Bill Cullen (1984-1986)
Pat Finn (1990-1991)
Narrated by Johnny Jacobs (1972-1979)
Jay Stewart (1977-1981)
Bob Hilton (1979-1980)
Art James (1980-1981)
Charlie O'Donnell (1981-1986)
Ed MacKay (1990-1991)
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes CBS: 686
Total: 2,496
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1972-1975, 1990-1991)
Chris Craft/KCOP Studios
Hollywood, California (1977-1984)
The Production Group Studios
Hollywood, California (1984-1986)
Running time ~25 minutes
Production company(s) Jack Barry Productions (1972-1975, 1990-1991)
Barry & Enright Productions (1977-1986)
Kline & Friends, Inc. (1990-1991)
Distributor Colbert Television Sales (1977-1986)
Orbis Communications (1990-1991)
Original channel CBS (1972-1975)
Syndicated (1977-1986, 1990-1991)
Original run September 4, 1972 – September 13, 1991

The Joker's Wild is an American television game show that aired at different times during the 1970s through the 1990s, it billed itself as the game "where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen", and was notable for being the first successful game show (earlier attempts were significantly less successful) produced by Barry-Enright Productions after their role in the quiz show scandals in the late 1950s. Contestants answered questions based on categories that were determined randomly by a mechanism resembling a slot machine. One of the symbols on the slot machine was a joker, which was treated as a wild card that represented any category during the game.

Originally, the show was simply a "Jack Barry Production", but Barry added Enright's name upon the start of the syndicated version in 1977 (although the show was still a property of "Jack Barry Productions"). Barry's sons, Jonathan and Douglas Barry, were co-executive producers for the 1990s version, which was produced in association with Richard S. Kline and billed as a Kline and Friends production.



Jack Barry, who created the show and eventually used it to revive his partnership with longtime producer Dan Enright, hosted all versions of the show up until his death in May 1984, with Jim Peck substituting on occasion beginning in 1981. Bill Cullen hosted for the remainder of the syndicated run.

Barry was not the original choice to host. When the series was finally sold to CBS in 1972, the network was not sold on Barry hosting due to his past involvement in the 1950s quiz show scandals. Wink Martindale, Tom Kennedy, and Allen Ludden were the three top choices to host, but each was already committed to a game show (Martindale hosting Gambit, Kennedy hosting Split Second, and Ludden hosting Password). With no alternatives, Barry was given the green light to host; however, CBS only gave him a thirteen-week probationary contract. Eventually, by January 1973, with no complaints from the viewers or from the network, Barry signed a regular contract to host the program up to its cancellation in June 1975. The original series aired 686 episodes.

Series creator Jack Barry hosted the show from 1972-1984.

Although Joker is commonly named by several game show historians as the first series Barry was part of following the disastrous quiz show scandals, that is not actually true. Barry had hosted two earlier series (The Generation Gap and The Reel Game) prior to the premiere of Joker (the latter of the two produced and created by Barry himself), and some evidence suggests he and partner Dan Enright were "silent partners" in several game shows of the 1960s (in the United States and Canada), defying their unofficial blacklisting by the industry. Enright was brought on as executive producer of The Joker's Wild during its final CBS season, and was mentioned by Barry himself on the program's final CBS episode.

Jim Peck began subbing for Barry beginning in 1981, which he continued to do on occasion until Barry's death in 1984. Peck also filled-in for Cullen during the final season for a few weeks in the late run of 1986. Barry and Joker producer Ron Greenberg had planned for Barry to retire at the end of the 1983-84 season and have Peck assume the full-time hosting duties for Joker at the beginning of the following season, which was to be the syndicated series' eighth. However, after Barry's death Dan Enright decided to overrule the decision and hire Bill Cullen to take over as host for what would turn out to be Joker's final two seasons. The Joker's Wild turned out to be the last game show hosted by Barry, Cullen and Peck.

Pat Finn hosted the 1990 revival, which lasted only one season.


Johnny Jacobs, a longtime friend of host Jack Barry, was the original announcer of The Joker's Wild. Jacobs served through most of its CBS run, with Johnny Gilbert and Roy Rowan filling in for Jacobs on occasion, plus a young Marc Summers, and other announcers who worked at CBS as a page of the network. When the series returned to first-run syndication in 1977, Jacobs and Jay Stewart alternated the primary announce position. Stewart became the exclusive announcer for The Joker's Wild (as well as for all Barry & Enright-produced game shows at the time) during the 1979-1980 season; Bob Hilton announced the final three months of the 79-80 season and Art James announced the 1980-1981 season, with Stewart announcing the final three months of the 80-81 season as well as the 1980 Tournament of Champions. In 1981 Stewart was replaced as Barry & Enright lead announcer by Charlie O'Donnell, who announced for the remainder of the series' run. Johnny Gilbert and John Harlan filled in for O'Donnell on occasion.

Ed MacKay, a local Los Angeles radio DJ and one-time overnight news anchor at KNX-AM, announced the 1990-1991 revival.

Recording locations

Four different studio sets were used during the course of the 1972-1986 run of The Joker's Wild. In the beginning, the joker machine was surrounded by two borders that were somewhat shaped like a "C", and the category windows were surrounded by chase-light borders. The rest of the set was of a white and red configuration. When the syndicated version began airing in 1977, the set remained somewhat the same but with more red light bulbs and a modified chase-light border around each of the category windows. The following year, more chase lights were added and the red lights began flashing as well.

By 1981 the set, designed by John C. Mula, added neon lights with blue neon surrounding the joker machine. A set of podiums were also added for the audience game which resembled the contestant podiums.

The series was produced at the following locations (all in Los Angeles):

  • 1972-1975: CBS Television City, Studio 31; moved to Studio 33 near the end of this run.
  • 1977-1984: Chris Craft/KCOP Studios.
  • 1984-1986: The Production Group Studios, near Columbia Square in Hollywood.
  • 1990-1991: CBS Television City, Studio 33. Some episodes were videotaped at Studio 31, the original studio of Joker.


The gameplay described below represents the format used from 1977-1986. Differences in other versions are discussed in the appropriate section.

Main game

Two contestants, one a returning champion, played. The challenger began the game by pulling a lever, which set three slot machine-style wheels in motion. The wheels each contained five different categories and a Joker. After the wheels stopped the player chose one of the displayed categories and had to answer a question from that category.

If the player answered correctly, the dollar value of the question was added to his/her score. If they answered incorrectly, his/her opponent had a chance to answer and steal the money (and could possibly win the game if the question was enough to put him/her at or above $500). The champion would then get to spin, pick a category and have a chance to answer a question, with the same rules applying.

The game is unofficially played in "rounds", with each round completed when both the challenger and champion has spun the joker machine, similar to innings in baseball.

Question values

The value of each question was determined by how many times that category appeared on the wheels. If three different categories appeared, a question in any of the categories was worth $50. If a two of a kind and a single appeared, a question based on the pair was worth $100, and one based on the single was worth $50. If a natural triple (three of a kind) was spun, the question was worth $200 (originally $150) and a bonus prize was awarded to the player. Natural pairs and triples could not be split and had to be taken for $100 or $200 respectively. A player, however, can answer a question on the displayed "pair" category for $50 as long as one Joker is on the board.

The game's "slots" were actually three slightly modified slide projectors. Each graphic was a separate slide loaded on a metal platter (similar to a ViewMaster wheel). Electric motors would spin the platters rapidly, rotating the graphics through the gates. Unused categories were deselected by simply switching off the appropriate projectors. Turning the lamps on and off so much caused them to blow out repeatedly during tapings.


A game in progress with a contestant spinning three jokers.

Jokers were wild, hence the show's title. The player could use them to match any displayed category to create a pair or triple, increasing the value of the question. They could also substitute a Joker for a category in play but not displayed on the wheels (which was referred to as going "off the board") for a $50 question using one Joker or $100 using two Jokers. If three Jokers were spun, a player was able to choose a question in any of the categories in play during the game. However, a correct answer resulted in an immediate and automatic win for the player, regardless of his/her score. In this case, the player's winnings for that game would be $500.

Using Jokers was optional, so players would sometimes decline to use them if enough money would be at stake for their opponent to win the game or take the lead (Example: spinning a natural pair and a Joker, then playing the pair for $100 instead of turning it into a $200 triple). By playing this way, if the player missed the question and the opponent answered it correctly, the opponent would have less of an advantage.

The Joker cards had a purple background with a cartoon Joker doing a handstand with his feet curved to the left. The word Wild appeared at the bottom of the card.

Category cards

Category cards were of various illustrations, with green, light blue, yellow, orange, pink, red and other color configurations with the name of the category displayed below. Originally, the category named appeared on the color background, but later on the category name was placed on a white box with a black border. Before the game, when Jack announced the categories used in each game, they originally appeared as a list on a red background with a faint image of the Joker, but later, they would be individually seen the same as if they appeared on the cards themselves (each illustration appeared as Jack announced each individual category).

The windows

The game windows were surrounded by chase-light borders, with each window having an 11-bulb-by-7-bulb configuration; having a 2-on, 2-off chase light format. For a time in 1983 a 3-on, 1-off chase light sequence was used, which was common on NBC-produced game shows. These border lights would be activated when a Joker appeared, or if a player selected a category. At one time, all three window lights would turn on regardless of what appeared on the board. Also, if the Devil showed up at any time in the bonus game, only the border light surrounding the Devil would be remain activated, while the other two windows' lights would turn off. Prior to 1981, all of the border lights would deactivate if the Devil appeared.

Winning the game

After each completed round, the player who reached $500 or more, in proper turn, was declared the winner and kept the money. This could be accomplished by various scenarios:

The challenger could also win the game by answering a question missed by the champion whose value was high enough to reach $500. Otherwise, the champion had the advantage of being able to win on a challenger's missed question, without having to take his/her own spin.

The game automatically ended if either player spun three Jokers and correctly answered a question from any of the five categories. Only the player who spun three Jokers could answer, with the game continuing if he/she missed.

If both players tied with a winning amount, extra rounds would be played until the tie was broken.

If the challenger reached $500 first the champion was given one last chance to spin. If unsuccessful, the game was over and a new champion was crowned.

Any contestant who won five consecutive games received a new car as a bonus, usually a Buick Skylark or a Chevy Chevette. Players continued on the show until defeated; some repeat champions won more than $25,000 in cash and prizes. In the syndicated series, Joe Dunn won the most non-tournament winnings at $66,200 in cash and prizes; followed by Eileen Jason with $55,250 and Hal Shear winning $39,050.

Between 1981 and 1984, the show had a winnings limit of $50,000 (originally $35,000) imposed on it at the request of CBS; with all winnings over that amount being donated to charity. The limit prompted Barry and distributor Colbert Television Sales to sign up as many non-CBS stations as they could in order to remove the $50,000 limit, which they were successful in doing.

Only one contestant, Joe Dunn, retired undefeated during that time, prompting Barry to erroneously say that he was the first contestant in the program's history to retire undefeated. Dunn, the highest non-Tournament of Champions winner in the history of the original series, retired undefeated with $50,000; while donating the remaining $16,200 of his $66,200 total to United Cerebral Palsy. Dunn surpassed Eileen Jason's record winnings by more than $11,000 during his winning streak of 16 games. Of these 16 wins, Dunn spun three Jokers four times – also a record; and won three automobiles, each valued at around $6,000. Dunn's luck carried over to the bonus game, winning 11 of these games and losing only five.

Endgame ("Face the Devil")

The wheels now contained various amounts of money ($25, $50, $75, $100, $150 and $200 money cards) and "the Devil". There were two Devil slides on only one of the wheels. Each of the three wheels had 12 slots, so the odds of the Devil appearing on any one spin were one in six. The object was to accumulate $1,000 or more while spinning without hitting the Devil. Doing so won the money accumulated plus a prize package worth anywhere between $2,500 and $4,000. If a player spun a natural triple they automatically won $1,000 and the prize package. However, if the Devil came up at any time, the game was over and the player lost whatever money they had accumulated. The player always had the option to stop after every "safe" spin and keep the money won up to that point.

Unlike the other Barry-Enright produced games Tic-Tac-Dough and Bullseye, the losing (Devil) slides were not revealed at the end of a game that was won or stopped. Occasionally, if a player stopped before reaching the $1,000 goal, Barry would have the player take an unofficial spin to see if the Devil would have appeared or not.

Broadcast history

In the mid-1960s, Jack Barry pitched the concept of Joker to Goodson-Todman Productions. The company was not impressed, and Barry continued tinkering with the format over the next few years.

The Joker's Wild debuted on CBS September 4, 1972, incidentally on the same Labor Day as the modern incarnation of The Price is Right as well as Gambit. It ran until June 13, 1975 on that network, airing at 10:00 AM Eastern (9:00 Central). A total of 686 episodes were produced.

For the first two years, it faced NBC's Dinah's Place, the talk vehicle for singer/actress Dinah Shore, which gave way to the Dennis James revival of Name That Tune, which Joker easily defeated in the ratings. However, when NBC moved its panel game Celebrity Sweepstakes to 10:00/9:00 in early 1975, Joker went into steep decline, ending a nearly three-year run in the summer.

However, some big-market independent stations gave the game another chance the next year. After a syndicated rerun cycle of the last CBS season proved successful in 1976, the show returned to first-run syndication from September 1977 to May 23, 1986 (airing back-to-back with sister show Tic-Tac-Dough in some markets). A revival ran from September 10, 1990 to March 8, 1991 (with reruns airing until September 13), also in syndication.


1968 Pilot

The first pilot for The Joker's Wild was taped December 8, 1968 and hosted by Allen Ludden (CBS was not comfortable about Barry hosting due to his involvement in the scandals). This version was very different from the eventual series, most notably the fact that categories on the wheels were each represented by a different celebrity panelist (Don Drysdale, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Paulsen, Rich Little, and Irene Ryan), each of whom asked the questions in his/her specific category.

If the player spun three different categories, a question for any of the categories was worth one point. If a contestant spun a pair and a single, two questions were asked worth two points each if the player chose the pair or one question worth one point for choosing the single category. If the player spun a triple, three 3-point questions were asked. Jokers represented any category the contestant chose, increasing the value of the questions if a pair or triple was formed as a result. The spinner had the option to answer any of the number of questions available depending on the spin.

Full turns were used, with the player reaching 13 points or more winning the game. A three-Joker spin resulted in a win if the spinner correctly answered a question from any of the five categories.

In the bonus round the game's winner spun the wheels, each of which contained different prizes of various qualities, ranging from a 5¢ piece of chewing gum to $500 cash. After the spin, the player could elect to keep the prizes shown, or give them all back for a second spin. This offer was then repeated after the second spin, but if a third spin was taken the player was forced to take whatever prizes came up in that spin.

This pilot did not feature returning champions.

The CBS Joker's Wild did a throwback to this format for a week from January 7-11, 1974, with a similar set; among the participating celebrities were Rod McKuen, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Richard Dawson. Notably, Barry now asked the celebrity a question; if they answered correctly, the contestant was asked a question in the same category for the other half of the amount spun. As per the rules of the time, the goal was $500 and the winner went on to play the Jokers and Devils endgame. (A brief clip from this week, showing Barry at a similar podium to the Ludden pilots facing to his right, was shown during a game show clip montage on the primetime special CBS At 75 {aired November 2, 2003}.)

1969 Pilot

A second pilot was taped a month later on January 5, 1969. There were no celebrities this time, with Ludden simply reading the questions himself; despite this change, the 1968 host-contestant podium remained in use.

Both pilots were produced by Barry in association with CBS, with Lee Vines announcing.

1970 Pilot: The Honeymoon Game

On October 3, 1970 another pilot was shot under the name The Honeymoon Game, hosted by Jim McKrell and produced by Barry in association with Metromedia.[1]

Round 1 featured six couples (three in each segment), with one set of spouses given a category and asked up to six questions serving as clues to its identification, and if guessed correctly, that spouse's partner then had a chance to identify the subject for one point. The spouses then traded places for the second half of the round, with the lowest-scoring couple in each segment eliminated.

In Round 2, the four remaining couples competed against each other, again in two separate segments. As with the 1968 pilot, the wheels had celebrities on them, each one representing a category (Bob Crane, Jaye P. Morgan, former California governor Edmund G. Brown, Marc Copage, and Don Drysdale). After the spin, the couple selected which category they wanted. The scoring was similar to that of the Ludden pilots but, instead of Jokers on the reels, there were "Bonus" cards. If a couple spun three Bonus cards the game instantly ended without a question being asked. Ten points or more won the game. For each Bonus card spun, other than the situation where the player would spin three of them in one spin, a point was automatically added to the couple's score.

Round 3 was the "deciding finals" with the two remaining couples playing to win the match. This round was based on the 1969 pilot, with no celebrities and McKrell asking the questions himself. The players spun as before, with a category in the first wheel, "Take A Chance" in the second, and a dollar amount in the third (e.g., a spin of "Sports/Take A Chance/$10" would have McKrell asking a question on Sports for $10). A correct answer added the value to the couple's score. The couple then "took a chance", as the middle window implies, and saw what was behind the slide (anything from "Add $40" to "Deduct $100"). If answered wrong, the amount on the first wheel was deducted from the score; however, couples did not go below 0.

The game was played until time ran out, and the couple with the highest score played the bonus round, which was similar to the first bonus round used in the later CBS series of The Joker's Wild, with the only difference being that the couple was given three spins instead of two (see description below). There was also a second bonus round, where the wheels displayed hearts with numbers in them (1-2-3 in order of the slots), and the couple selected one of those three windows. Behind each window was a destination for the couple to choose for their honeymoon.

The Honeymoon Game was intended to be a 90-minute game show (the genre's first), and though it did not sell, a number of Metromedia-owned stations did air the pilot as a one-off special in mid-1971.

The syndicated version of The Joker's Wild had a slight throwback to the couples concept for one week in the 1981-1982 season, when it held a "Newlywed Couples" tournament.

1971: KTLA

A "tryout series" aired locally on Los Angeles' KTLA for about three months and was hosted by Jack Barry. The rules were similar to the regular 1972-1986 versions with the following exceptions:

Three contestants competed in each game, with the champion spinning first to begin the game. Spinning three different categories and answering a question in any of the three categories was worth $25, while pairs were worth $50 and triples were worth $100. $250 was needed to win, and as before an equal amount of turns was given. A three-Joker spin resulted in an automatic win with a correct response to a question from any of the five categories in play.

In the event of a tie, the lowest scorer was eliminated and play continued until one was ahead after each round. The bonus round was similar to that of the Ludden pilots but had more elaborate prizes.

Highlights of this version were shown during promos of the eventual series, which began production on CBS in 1972.


Initially, triples were worth $150 but soon increased to $200. In the early days of The Joker's Wild a three-joker spin resulted in an automatic win for a player without having to answer a question. From the premiere until around mid-1973, the champion went first.

Bonus Round

A contestant with Jack Barry during the "Face The Devil" bonus round.

The bonus round went through a few different permutations:

  • Prize Round #1: Players got two spins. They could take whatever they spun the first time or could spin one more time, but were stuck with the prizes that were spun on the second spin. There were black circles around some of the prizes' icons. If all three prizes in a spin were circled, the player also won a new car. This format was only used on the first two episodes.
  • Prize Round #2: Beginning with the third aired episode, the circles were eliminated and the car became a regular prize on the wheels (other big prizes including a boat or a trip were also added to the board).
  • Jokers and Devils: The wheels contained Jokers and Devils. The player was given up to three spins, and each time three Jokers came up, a different prize was won, increasing in value with each spin taken. If a Devil appeared, the player lost it all. Originally the winning contestant got four spins with the last spin being worth a car or another big prize. For a brief period, the prize was not told until after the reels had been spun.

In 1973, to avoid confusion between the category wheels and the bonus game reels, the Jokers in the "Jokers and Devils" era were marked with the word "Joker" instead of the word "Wild". This was implemented following a game in which the reels were not switched to the regular reels, and the champion spun three Jokers to begin the game. For one game, the left window mistakenly contained a bonus game reel (in fact, one spin read, from left to right, "Joker", "Wild", and a category). Barry did not mention why there was a difference between the two Jokers, or why every spin in that game began with a Joker on the left.

  • Face the Devil: By the end of the CBS run, the "Face the Devil" round described above had been implemented, except a natural triple did not constitute an automatic win in the CBS version. It has been said that the Devil in the "Face the Devil" bonus game was meant to be a caricature of Jack Barry, and indeed many contestants over the years told Barry that the devil artwork resembled him.

Joker's Jackpot

Early in the show's run, returning champions were competing for a chance to win the "Joker's Jackpot," an accruing jackpot of cash that started at $2,500. Players won this jackpot if they won four (later three) consecutive games; later on, a new automobile was added to the jackpot. However, if the champion was defeated, all of his/her cash winnings were forfeited to the Joker's Jackpot (prizes won in the bonus round were his/hers to keep). After every game, the champion decided whether to play on for a chance to win the Jackpot or play it safe and retire from the show with his/her current winnings. The Jackpot continued to build until it reached $25,000, which was at the time CBS's maximum "winnings cap" for game show contestants.

The first contestant to win the Joker's Jackpot was Katherine "Kathy" Wechsler, who, despite the fact she didn't win any prizes in her attempts at the bonus rounds, retired with $15,400 in cash. Katherine won the $13,800 jackpot in dramatic fashion, answering a missed question by the challenger correctly for the win in a close game.

Originally, after winning the Joker's Jackpot, the champion was retired undefeated, but later on the rules were changed to allow champions to continue playing until either being defeated or reaching the maximum CBS winnings limit.

Upon implementation of the "Face the Devil" bonus round, the "Joker's Jackpot" was abandoned. Players kept whatever they earned while still retiring after winning $25,000. Five wins won a new automobile.


There were a few alterations to the syndicated show over the years. One was the addition of a "Natural Triple Jackpot" beginning in the fall of 1983. This was an accruing prize package offered to a contestant who had spun a triple of any category, without Jokers (at one point the jackpot reached as high as $18,000). Only the player who spun the triple could win the jackpot with a correct answer; if he/she missed, the opponent could only win the value of the question.

Prior to the Jackpot's introduction a bonus prize, usually around $500 in value, was given to any contestant who spun a natural triple. Natural Triple prizes were kept regardless of game's outcome.

Tournament of Champions

"Tournaments of Champions" were held annually between 1977 and 1980. Frank Dillon won the $50,000 and $100,000 tournaments in 1977 and 1978, respectively; Eileen Jason captured the $250,000 tournament in 1979 defeating Dillon in the finals.

In 1980, The Joker's Wild became the first television program to advertise that it was giving away $1,000,000. It was the total purse for a special 16-player tournament of champions; the eventual winner received $500,000 of that total ($250,000, paid $25,000 annually for 10 years, plus $250,000 to the charity of his or her choice); The runner-up received $200,000 of that total ($100,000, paid $10,000 annually for 10 years, plus $100,000 to the charity of his or her choice). The remainder of the money was divided among the other participants in the tournament, depending on how they performed, with once again half of their winnings going to charity--those eliminated in the preliminaries received $15,000 (with $7,500 going to charity), the quarter-final losers received $25,000 (with $12,500 going to charity), and the 2 exiting semifinalists collected $40,000 (with $20,000 going to charity). Rob Griffin won the grand prize, half of which went to the March of Dimes. Cassandra Dooley won $200,000 for second place, half of which went to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Other tournaments of champions ($50,000 in 1977, $100,000 in 1978, and $250,000 in 1979) were held prior to this, but no tournaments were held after the $1,000,000 tournament due to winnings cap limitations. During this tournament, the theme to another Barry & Enright game show, the 1976 version of Break the Bank, was used instead of the regular opening and closing themes; while the regular Joker's Wild theme was used as a bumper.

Different rules applied to Tournament of Champions play: the players played for points instead of dollars, and in the championship game, winning two games out of three were needed to win the top prize (3 out of 5 for both the $250,000 and $1,000,000 tournaments). In the event a natural triple was spun, a $500 bonus was awarded to the player for his/her charity. Players drew numbers to determine who would spin the wheels first. If player #1 (in the challenger's podium) spun three jokers and answers a question, that player's score goes to 500 points. The player who spun second would get one final turn to tie the game in that case, or win the game if trailing by less than 200 points. The player who was ahead after each completed round after the target score of 500 points was reached was declared the winner. Also, no bonus game was played throughout the tournament; after one game was completed, another game began.

Other special weeks over the years included "College Week", "Couples Week", "Teen Week", and "Children's Week".

Special categories

Special categories were introduced during the course of the syndicated era.

  • Mystery(?): Debuted with the syndicated series in 1977. If picked, the value of the question was doubled. The contestant chose an envelope from the front of the host's podium, numbered from 1 to 7. The host would then announce the category and read the question, with a correct answer earning the player $100, $200, or $400 depending on the spin.
  • What's Missin_?: A sentence pertaining to a phrase or a title, or a list, was read and the contestant's job is to fill in the missing word or complete the list.
  • Fast Forward __________: Introduced in 1977-78, the player can answer as many questions as wished, stopping after any correct answer. A wrong answer forfeited the money won in that turn and gave their opponent a chance to answer the missed question for the base value ($50, $100, or $200).
  • Who, What, or Where?: Involves questions with a Who (with the answer pertaining to a famous person or fictional character), a What (a famous thing or event), or a Where (a famous place).
  • Stumpers: Introduced in 1983, it featured questions missed by both players from previous episodes. The player could elect to answer the question normally, doubling the dollar value, or answer the question with the help of two wrong answers for the face value of the question. Originally, the category was a straight-forward question, with $100 added to the value of the question, making the question worth $150, $200, or $300.
  • Bid __________: Debuted during Barry's final season. A player had to answer a certain amount of questions (similar to the format of Bullseye). The player chose how many questions they would like to answer, with the value of the spin multiplied by the amount of the bid. Like "Fast Forward", the category can be used to catch up if trailing. In the event a question is missed, the player's opponent can complete the bid themselves by answering one question correctly. An incorrect answer by the opponent ended the questioning and that player would spin on their proper turn for another category.
  • Fact or Foto: The player had to answer a question after choosing whether to see a photo or hearing a fact about the question. An incorrect response gave their opponent both the fact and the photo prior to their answer.
  • Multiple Choice: Introduced in 1978, a player is given three possible answers to a potluck question, and had to choose the correct answer (For the first half of the new syndicated version's 1977-78 season, all questions were multiple-choice, except for some visual categories.)
  • Alphabet Soup (formerly known as A-Z) : Same as "Take A Letter" on Tic-Tac-Dough and similar to the questions asked on Blockbusters. In this category, a correct answer begins with a letter of the alphabet announced by the host before reading the question.
  • How Low Will You Go?: A question with a list of eight clues was asked and the players alternated in bidding as to how few clues (s)he would need to answer it (similar to "Bid A Note" on Name That Tune) – a wrong answer meant the opponent was supplied with all the clues before giving an answer.
  • Just One More: Identical to the "Auction" category on Tic-Tac-Dough, both players bid on a question with multiple answers. The highest bidder gets control. If the player completes the bid the player gets the money. If the player fails, the opponent has to provide just one answer from the list to earn the money.
  • Today's Name Is...: Questions in this category pertain to a famous person, actor/actress, etc.
  • Crossword Definitions: The host would announce the number of letters were in a word and read a definition pertaining to that word. The contestant must guess what word fits with that definition.
  • Pot Luck: A question from any of the other four categories in the game.
  • Grab Bag: A straight-forward general knowledge question.
  • Take a Chance: Identical to "Challenge Category" on Tic-Tac-Dough, the host reads a question and the player decides to play or take a chance by letting the opponent answer first. If the opponent gets the question wrong, the original player gets the money. If the player decides to answer and gets it wrong, the opponent gets the money.
  • Choose the Clues: The host reveals the subject for the question and the opponent decides if the player in control would be given one or two clues. One clue was worth double the amount while two clues was worth the regular amount. If the spinning player is given only one clue and misses, the opponent is given both clues for the regular amount and the chance to answer.
Visual Categories

Visual categories were also added to the mix during the syndicated era as well as the final CBS season (including the CBS finale). Some of those visual categories were Country Silhouettes, Flags, Scrambled ______________s, Football Insignias, and many many others.

Audience Game

Beginning with the 1981-1982 season, an audience game was played. Three members of the studio audience were selected for a chance to win money and a chance to spin against the devil. Each audience member was given one spin to get as much money as possible. The wheels contained money amounts ($10, $20, $30, $40, $50 and $100), with $300 the highest amount possible in one spin. Whoever had the highest score went on to face the devil for a bonus prize and an additional $1,000. In the event of a tie, a spin-off would occur, with the members winning whatever came up on the wheels, added to what they spun before. The audience members kept whatever money they accumulated in the first part of the audience game.

In fall 1984, in order to accommodate new host Bill Cullen, two audience players were joined in the game by a home viewer who played using their touch-tone telephone (they "spun" by pressing the "star" button). The change was made due to Cullen's disability from polio as a child, which did not enable him to move great distances quickly as Barry or Jim Peck were able to.

Originally when the audience game was introduced, it was played at least once every week (usually on the Friday episode), and audience members were allowed two spins with each member deciding to take the first spin or pass for the second. These rules were later changed to those described above and began appearing daily half-way through the 1981-1982 season.

Joker! Joker! Joker! (1979-1981)

Prior to the debut of Joker! Joker! Joker!, beginning in 1973 The Joker's Wild featured children playing every year around Easter.

The program was a special once-weekly version of The Joker's Wild in which children competed with appropriately-themed subject matter. The format was essentially the same, with only some slight alterations. In the main game the children played for points, not dollars, with 500 points awarding a $500 education bond, whereas losing players received a $100 bond. The special categories "Mystery" and "Fast Forward" were not used in this version, but "Multiple Choice" was. As before, full rounds were played, and the player who reached 500 points or more after each completed round won. A three-Joker spin still was worth an automatic win with one correct answer from any of the five categories in play. More Jokers were also added to the wheels, which Barry himself pointed out during one episode after an audience member shouted out "fixed" during the opening segment.[citation needed]

The Joker cards contained a more juvenile-looking animated "joker" performing a handstand (with the word Joker written below the design), and the children played the Face the Devil round under the same rules as the adults on The Joker's Wild, except that members of their family joined them onstage for assistance.


When the series returned to syndication in 1990, virtually everything about the show was changed. In particular, the regular questions were replaced with terms that the contestants had to define. A memorial plaque was placed on the slot machine as a tribute to Jack Barry.

This version lasted only one season due to low ratings and late night time slots.[citation needed].

Format #1

Round 1

In the first round, three contestants (one a returning champion) competed to be the first to reach $500. The game began with a toss-up definition, and whoever buzzed in first with the correct answer gained control of the machine. The wheels contained various dollar amounts (generally $5–$50 in each window), with a Joker in the third window tripling the value of the first two if it came up (and giving that player 15 seconds to come up with as many correct answers as possible).

After spinning, the player was given a series of rapid-fire definitions and had to figure out what those definitions referred to. Each correct answer earned the current value of the wheels. If a definition was missed, the other two players could buzz-in and attempt to steal control of the board.

After this, the wheels were spun again, either by the correct answerer or (if no one had answered correctly) the controller of the last question. When one player reached the $500 target number, the two high-scorers moved on to the next round, while the low-scoring contestant was eliminated, leaving with parting gifts. In the event of a tie for second place at the end of round 1, the tied players each played a round of definitions, with the player who gave more correct answers moving onto round 2[citation needed].

Round 2

The two remaining contestants advanced to the second round, which was played much like the first but with higher dollar amounts on the wheels. The contestants built on their scores from the first round and were able to choose from two categories after each spin. Additionally, an "Opponent's Choice" card could appear in the third window; as the name suggests, this gave the spinning player's opponent the choice of categories the spinner would have to answer questions from.

Players were not guaranteed the same number of spins as their opponent as on the original version of the show. The first player to reach $2,000 or more won the game and kept the money, while the loser left with parting gifts.

Format #2

About halfway through the run on January 7, 1991, the front game format was reworked to incorporate elements of the original Joker's Wild game. Although still played with the "definition" format, the categories and multiple Jokers returned to the wheels with spins worth $25 per correct answer for a single category, $50 for a double, or $100 for a triple. In this format, the player in control continued answering questions until he or she answered incorrectly or took too long to answer, at which point an opponent could steal the money and control by supplying the correct answer.

Spinning three Jokers won the contestant an automatic $250 bonus (theirs to keep regardless of the game's outcome) and the right to pick one of three categories for $100 a question. However, unlike the classic version where players could go "off the board" and choose any of the categories in the round, Jokers could only represent categories on the wheels and the value of the question had to be taken for $50 with one Joker and $100 with either a pair and a Joker or two Jokers and a category. No bonus was awarded for spinning a Natural Triple.

The winning score for Round 1 was increased to $1,000 at this point. In addition, the pace of the game was changed to allow games to "straddle" between shows if there was not enough time to play the bonus game in that particular show.

Bonus Round

The champion was given up to three definitions to different words, all starting with the same letter. Each correct answer given within a sixty second time limit earned one spin of the wheels. The wheels this time contained prizes, cash amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000, and Jokers. The object was to get three of a kind of any prize. After each spin, the player could "freeze" windows containing a prize they wanted to win and only the unfrozen windows would continue to spin.

Jokers could be used to match any prize showing; spinning three Jokers won a "Joker Jackpot" that started at $5,000 and increased by $500 each time until won (this could only be done in one spin, as Jokers could not be frozen and had to be converted into other prizes on the board when they came up). The highest "Joker Jackpot" ever won was $36,000 on February 4, 1991.

1990s audience game

Like the previous version, the revival also had audience members spin the wheels for money – however, this was only done when the main game (and the bonus round, if possible) ended sooner than expected, being used to fill remaining time and avoid straddling. Each player was given three spins to try and get three of the same bonus prize or cash amount on the wheels; if successful, $100 was awarded, otherwise the player received a Joker T-shirt as a consolation prize.


Board game manufacturer Milton Bradley produced four editions of The Joker's Wild home game, starting in 1973, the fourth of which was actually branded for Joker! Joker! Joker!. The first edition of the game included the "Jokers and Devils" bonus round.

In the mid-1990s, Philips produced two games for its CD-i platform based on The Joker's Wild, licensed by Sony Pictures Television, by now which owned the franchise. These games featured "real" hosts and were based more or less on the first syndicated series, while the sets on both games resembled the 1990 version. Wink Martindale "hosted" the first and best-known of these games, while Marc Summers could be found on a special "Junior" edition of the game. Charlie O'Donnell served as announcer on both games. Martindale was among the first candidates to host the original series when CBS was still not entirely sold on Jack Barry as host, due to his involvement in the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. However, Martindale already chose to host Gambit, which premiered on the same day in 1972 on CBS. O'Donnell was an announcer on the series in question also. The theme music in these games was a remix of the 1977-1986 theme.

In 2009, IGT released a slot machine based on The Joker's Wild.


The theme used from 1968-1969 and 1971-1974 was "The Savers", a 1967 track by electronic music artists Perrey and Kingsley. During the third and fourth weeks of the CBS run, because Barry had failed to secure clearance rights to "The Savers", a sound-alike theme was used while the clearance issues were resolved. The suit was settled for $24,000 in the publishers and composers' favor.[citation needed]

A new theme composed by Alan Thicke entitled "Joker's Jive" was introduced in 1974, and would be used for the 1974-1975 season and for the closing of the first syndicated season. In 1978, the show introduced a new theme (retaining some thematic elements of "The Savers") composed by Hal Hidey, which would remain until the end of the run in 1986.

Joe Manolakakis, for Hancock & Joe Productions, composed a new theme and music package for the 1990-1991 version.

Episode status

Both Ludden pilots and two versions of the Honeymoon Game pilot exist, with the 1968 pilot circulating amongst traders. The 1970 pilot also circulates, however this is one of two copies – one exists featuring the game in its entirety, while the other has Round 1 cut out; in the latter version (which is the circulating one), Barry appears before the beginning of the show to explain that the first round was removed prior to "airing" due to its weak format.

The status of the KTLA series is unknown; brief footage is known to survive through 1972 CBS promos.

For many years, only the third season of the CBS run was known to exist. In 2000, a search of New York's WCBS-TV found both the first two seasons (restoring the 686-episode run) and the entire series of Spin-Off (which replaced Joker in 1975). This presumably certifies that the network did in fact cease wiping in September 1972, and that most (if not all) games produced afterward exist. A clip from a January 1974 "celebrity week" was used during the network's anniversary special CBS At 75.

The 1977-1986 syndicated episodes exist, and were reran (along with some of the first CBS season) on GSN. The show is currently held by Sony Pictures Television.

The 1990s version is held by CBS Television Distribution and StudioCanal via the latter's acquisition of the library of Orbis Communications, which distributed this version.

USA Network reran episodes of the Cullen era from April 1, 1985 to April 24, 1987.[2] It also aired the 1990 revival from December 30, 1991[3] to September 11, 1992[4] and March 29, 1993[5] to June 24, 1994.[6]


  1. ^ "The Honeymoon Game" Retrieved 21 July 2007.
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows, 2nd Edition (Schwartz/Ryan/Wostbrock, 1995)
  3. ^ The Intelligencer - December 30, 1991
  4. ^ The Intelligencer - September 11, 1992
  5. ^ TV Guide - March 27-April 2, 1993
  6. ^ The Intelligencer - June 24, 1994
Preceded by
The Lucy Show
10:00 AM (EST), CBS
9/4/72 – 6/13/75
Succeeded by

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