Who Do You Trust

TV history books will tell you that Edgar Bergen (and wooden friends) hosted a prime-time game show called Do You Trust Your Wife? from 1956 to 1957. They will further tell you that when it shifted to daytime on July 14, 1958, its name was changed to the ungrammatical Who Do You Trust (should have been Whom and had a question mark) and that Bergen was replaced by Johnny Carson. The above tickets tell a different story. Here we see Johnny hosting the daytime version in January of ’58 and it’s still called Do You Trust Your Wife? Perhaps the name change is what occurred on the July date. On the September 22, 1958 ticket above, the name of the show is in a typeface other than the one normally used then on ABC tickets. That would suggest someone had made a quick fix on the printing plates to change the name of the program.

Writing the name of Carson’s game show without a question mark was symbolic of the program, which was a quiz show that never got around to asking many questions. Like Bergen’s version and Groucho’s You Bet Your Life, the quiz format was just an excuse for the host to banter with contestants and, in Johnny’s case, to engage in demonstrations. A belly dancer would come on to play the game and before they got to that, she’d give Johnny a lesson in her craft. It all honed and demonstrated Carson’s fine skills for making an interview interesting and participating in stunts — two of the three essential skills (the other being the monologue) that he’d display on The Tonight Show.

Occasionally, the game show got randy. Tuesday through Friday, Johnny would do the show live. On Fridays, he’d also tape a show that could air on Mondays so he and the crew could have a three-day weekend. After doing the live Friday show and before taping Monday’s, he and announcer Ed McMahon would repair to a nearby tavern for dinner and drinks, often resulting in an alcohol-enhanced taping that would be looser and dirtier than the norm and, of course, funnier. It all earned Johnny The Tonight Show, though not without a wait. When he was signed to replace Jack Paar on the late-night show, he still had six months on his Who Do You Trust contract, and that show’s producer, Don Fedderson, saw no reason to let him out early. The Tonight Show endured six months of guest hosts while Johnny hosted his afternoon program under duress, cracking jokes about ABC holding him prisoner. In actuality, it was not ABC but Fedderson, who knew that his show would not long survive the loss of Johnny…and it didn’t. Carson was finally replaced by comedian Woody Woodbury, ratings on Who Do You Trust plunged, and that was the end of that.