''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' was a 1942–1951 radio comedy show which maintained its popularity during a nine-year run on three networks for such sponsors as
Philip Morris Phil(l)ip or Phil Morris may refer to: Companies *Altria, a conglomerate company previously known as Philip Morris Companies Inc., named after the tobacconist **Philip Morris USA, a tobacco company wholly owned by Altria Group **Philip Morris Inter ...
Chrysler Stellantis North America (officially FCA US and formerly Chrysler ()) is one of the " Big Three" automobile manufacturers in the United States, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is the American subsidiary of the multinational automoti ...
, and DeSoto. The series was a spoof on the academic discourse on such authoritative panel series as '' Quiz Kids'' and ''
Information Please ''Information Please'' is an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938, to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called "inform ...
'', while the beginning of the program parodied the popular quiz show '' Doctor I.Q.'' With announcers Ken Roberts and Dick Stark, the program was broadcast on Mutual from June 25, 1942 to February 28, 1944, on CBS from February 25, 1944 to September 27, 1950 and finally on NBC from July 4, 1951 to September 26, 1951. The series typically aired as a summer replacement.


The satirical series featured "a board of experts who are dumber than you are and can prove it". The show's creator, Tom Howard, was also the quizmaster who asked questions of panelists Harry McNaughton, Lulu McConnell and George Shelton. The Irish-born Howard (1885–1955) and Shelton (1885–1972) had previously worked together as a team in vaudeville and comedy film shorts, while McConnell (1882–1962) and British comic McNaughton (1896–1967) had both appeared in many
Broadway Broadway may refer to: Theatre * Broadway Theatre (disambiguation) * Broadway theatre, theatrical productions in professional theatres near Broadway, Manhattan, New York City, U.S. ** Broadway (Manhattan), the street ** Broadway Theatre (53rd Stre ...
musical comedies and revues between 1920 and the late 1930s.


Each episode would start with some jokes ("Do married men live longer than single men?"... "No, it only seems longer.") and an introduction of the experts. After this, three or four questions would be discussed in detail: some posed by Howard, some picked at random by a guest from the audience. These questions often had the answer obvious in the query ("What town in Massachusetts had the Boston Tea Party?") or were common knowledge: * "Can you tell me the man's name children look for on Christmas Eve?" * "How long does it take a ship to make a five-day journey?" * "What animal does a blacksmith make horse shoes for?" * "For what meal do we wear a dinner jacket?" * "What is the habitat of the Bengal tiger?" Even so, the panelists would inevitably get the answer wrong, providing outrageously funny answers instead, followed by an even more uproarious rationale for their answer, a conversation that goes off on a tangent, and/or insults at each other. The show had a number of running gags which became
catchphrase A catchphrase (alternatively spelled catch phrase) is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such phrases often originate in popular culture and in the arts, and typically spread through word of mouth and a variety of mass ...
s with listeners such as McNaughton's "Now we're back to Miss McConnell again" and Shelton's "I used to woik in that town."


The original radio cast brought the show to television. It was first seen on CBS from June 6 to September 19, 1949. After two years, the series returned on NBC from July 5 to September 27, 1951; by this point, Howard (who appeared in this version in an elaborate cap and gown outfit) did not acknowledge that the 1949 episodes ever happened (a surviving episode from the 1951 run implied that the show had never appeared on television before). A spoof of this version was done in the mid-1950s by
Jackie Gleason John Herbert Gleason (February 26, 1916June 24, 1987) was an American actor, comedian, writer, composer, and conductor known affectionately as "The Great One." Developing a style and characters from growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he was know ...
. The series was revived by Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Productions as a weekly syndicated series from September 10, 1973 to September, 1974. In this version, host Joe Flynn queried panelists Jo Anne Worley, Billy Baxter and
Charles Nelson Reilly Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English and French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of the Proto-Germanic name (in runic alphabet) or ''*karilaz'' (in Latin alphabet), whose meaning was ...
(Worley and Reilly appeared concurrently as semi-regulars on the TV show ''
Match Game ''Match Game'' is an American television panel game show that premiered on NBC in 1962 and has been revived several times over the course of the last six decades. The game features contestants trying to match answers given by celebrity panelis ...
''; Reilly became a regular panelist on that show by the time ''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' ended this run). Not long after this version discontinued production, Flynn died from drowning in his swimming pool.

Episode status

At least 69 radio episodes are known to exist. These include those listed below and three held by the
UCLA Film and Television Archive The UCLA Film & Television Archive is a visual arts organization focused on the preservation, study, and appreciation of film and television, based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Also a nonprofit exhibition venue, the arch ...
. One 1951 television episode and two syndicated TV episodes are known to exist; the latter two are held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Further, two films also exist at the Library of Congress in the J. Fred and Leslie W. MacDonald Collection: a CBS kinescope from 1949, and an NBC installment from June 14, 1951 with all the DeSoto automobile commercials

Listen to

OTR Network: ''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' (17 episodes from 1944-1951 episodes)Internet Archive: ''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' (31 episodes from 1943-1951, 4 episodes with unknown dates)Ignorant: ''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' (70 episodes from 1943-1951, 4 episodes with unknown dates)
* 65 episodes.


Internet Archive: ''It Pays to Be Ignorant'' (lone known surviving 1951 episode)


External links

{{DEFAULTSORT:It Pays To Be Ignorant 1942 radio programme debuts 1951 radio programme endings Radio programs adapted into television shows 1940s American radio programs 1950s American radio programs 1949 American television series debuts 1949 American television series endings 1951 American television series debuts 1951 American television series endings 1973 American television series debuts 1974 American television series endings American panel games American radio game shows 1940s American comedy game shows 1950s American comedy game shows 1970s American comedy game shows American comedy radio programs CBS Radio programs Mutual Broadcasting System programs CBS original programming NBC original programming Television series by Stefan Hatos-Monty Hall Productions NBC radio programs