What if, he thought, the contestants ask the questions, rather than the hosts? From this simple notion came a brainstorm: Information Please one of the most popular, award-winning, and consistently entertaining programs in radio history.
Golenpaul set off to recruit his permanent "Brain Trust" - the group of experts whom he knew would either make or break the program. His main fear from the start was that he would end up hiring people who, though undeniably intelligent and well-read, would come across as stiff and dull on the air. Fortunately, his audition recording had already yielded two men whom, along with others, would soon make the show a popular success.
Clifton Fadiman had begun his literary career working for the publishing firm of Simon and Schuster, where he gradually rose to the position of Editor in Chief, and later moved to Harold Ross' New Yorker magazine. His tart New England accent combined with a wide knowledge of many subjects and a quick and biting wit, had already earned him a reputation as a welcome guest on many a radio discussion program. Franklin P. Adams, known primarily as "F.P.A.," the byline he used as the author of "The Conning Tower," his popular column in the New York Post, was well known as a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of literary and theatrical wits that regularly gathered for lunch in New York's fashionable Algonquin Hotel. Possessing an expert knowledge of Shakespeare and popular songs, as well as friendly contacts with many of the witty people who would serve on the panel of Information Please in the years to come, Adams was and remained an advantageous choice.
It wasn't too long before listeners enjoyed the debut of other experts who would soon become series regulars: New York Times sportswriter and columnist John Kieran and piano virtuoso and composer Oscar Levant. Kieran, with a soft Bronx accent that belied a broad knowledge of sports history, nature, and ornithology, and Levant, with his musical background, caustic wit, and knowledge of movies and entertainment, would add their own personal touches to Information Please in the years to come.
Armed with Fadiman, a team of experts, $100.00 in prize money, and NBC staff announcer Milton Cross, Information Please hit the airwaves at 8:30 PM on Tuesday, May 17, 1938 over NBC's Blue Network. From the beginning, Information Please showed signs of being an innovative program. Since the show was largely spontaneous - only the introductions, the closing, and the questions were written in advance. Likewise, listeners used to the typical personality-based musical and comedy shows of the late 1930s were surprised to hear authentic wit over the airwaves - surprised and pleased as well since, though the questions were usually difficult, the experts were both amazing and charming when they answered a question and, more importantly, authentically human and funny when they couldn't. It was said, in fact, that Information Please was really at its best and most entertaining when the brains of the "brain trust" failed them; Fadiman never hesitated to gently chide them when they missed an answer. During the contemplation following a question, he was frequently heard to say to the listeners "I can see their brains spinning away, folks" and "Come, come, gentlemen - everyone knows that" was a common response to a muffed question. The promise of a cash prize seldom inspired listeners to send in questions; the greatest thrill, after all, was the possibility of stumping the experts.
The fourteen programs in this fourth Radio Archives collection date from June of 1941 to May 1943.
With What Character or Author Do You Associate These Phrases with the Word 'Tell' In It?
with guest panelist Sally Benson
Friday, June 6, 1941 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Lucky Strike
Where in Fact or Fiction Does a Man Kill a Lion with His Bare Hands?
with guest panelist Bill Tilden
Friday, June 13, 1941 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Lucky Strike
Complete These Three Lines and Name the Author
with guest panelists James Wallace and Alfred E. Smith
Friday, June 20, 1941 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Lucky Strike
What Are These Famous 'Short' Items?
with guest Fred Allen
Monday, February 15, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Who is the President of the American Red Cross?
with guest panelist Will Rogers Jr.
Monday, March 1, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
On What River Might You Sail from One of These Cities to the Other?
with guest panelist Gregory Ratoff
Monday, March 8, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
What is Each of the Following?
with guest panelist Jan Struther
Monday, March 15, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Who Sent and Who Received These Messages?
with guest panelist Carlos Romulo
Monday, March 29, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Define These Words: Bisque, Basque, Busk
with guest panelists Cornelia Otis Skinner and Jan Struther
Monday, April 5, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Who Was 'The Little Giant'?
with guest panelists Wendell Willkie and Ray Baldwin
Monday, April 12, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Which Sports Figure Played Seventeen Years in the Outfield for One Team?
with guest panelists Ford Frick and Grantland Rice
Monday, April 19, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Who Were These Famous Men?
with guest panelist Leon Henderson
Monday, April 26, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Name Each of the Following Musical Excerpts that Suggests a Possible Point of Invasion of U. S. Forces
with guest panelist George V. Denny Jr.
Monday, May 10, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz
Fifth Anniversary Program
with guest panelists Jan Struther and Boris Karloff
Monday, May 17, 1943 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Heintz