Win Ben Stein's Money

Win Ben Stein's Money was an American television game show that ran from 1997 to 2003 on Comedy Central. It featured three contestants who competed in a general knowledge trivia contest to win the grand prize of $5,000 from the show's host, Ben Stein. In late 2004, GSN, formerly known as Game Show Network, began broadcasting repeats of the show.

Stein always had a co-host to exchange jokes with and to ask some of the questions in the game. Jimmy Kimmel was the co-host for the first three years of the show's run, but he left the show in 2000 (even though he made occasional guest appearances after that). Nancy Pimental replaced Kimmel and co-hosted the show through 2001. Sal Iacono, who took over the role in 2002, was the show's last co-host.

Various pieces of classical music were used as the themes. The opening theme was the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Ode To Joy, which was repeated to begin the second round. The closing theme was Ride of the Valkyries, from the second opera of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. Other classical music pieces used on the show included:


Rules of the game

First round

The game began with three contestants, five categories (whose titles where puns hinting at the question contents) that were read by the co-host, and $5,000 in Stein's bank. The money was not Ben Stein's, but was put up instead by the show's producer, Valleycrest Productions.

Once a player chose a category, Stein asked a question that was worth a value between $50 and $150, depending on the level of difficulty. If a player answered that question correctly, the value of the question was subtracted from Stein's bank and added to the contestant's score. Stein then asked that contestant a follow-up question from the same category for an additional $50; any of the opponents could answer that question if the contestant answered it incorrectly. (If nobody answered the original question correctly, Stein asked a $50 toss-up question that any of the three contestants could answer.) A new category replaced the old one after both questions were asked, and whoever won the previous question got to choose the next category.

At the end of the first round the contestant with the lowest score was eliminated from the game and that player's money (if he/she had earned any) was put back into Stein's bank.

A running gag on the show was performed whenever a contestant answered in the form of a question, like they do on Jeopardy!: that player was forced to wear a dunce cap for the rest of the round.

Second round

Stein competed against the two remaining contestants in this round, answering questions from the eliminated player's podium. The co-host -- who always gave a disclaimer stating that Stein had no advance knowledge of the questions from that point forward -- asked the questions in this round.

The second round also contained five categories, but the questions in that round were worth anywhere between $200 and $500 of Stein's money if a contestant answered them correctly. (If Stein answered a question correctly, the bank total did not change.) Follow-up questions were not asked in this round.

The contestant with the lower score at the end of the second round was eliminated from the game, with his or her winnings going back into Stein's bank.

"Best of Ten" bonus round

Both Stein and the winner of the second round were placed in isolation booths so one could not hear the other's answers. The isolation booth for the contestant was plain, with a bare light bulb hanging for light, while Stein's booth had a leather wingback chair and appeared to have lavish furnishings. The co-host asked each of them the same ten questions, and both Stein and the contestant had 60 seconds apiece to answer them. If the contestant answered more questions correctly than Stein did, the contestant won all of the $5,000 that Stein put into the bank at the beginning of the show. If Stein answered more questions correctly, the contestant only won the money that he or she won in the first two rounds. Originally, if there was a tie, it would go to Ben Stein and the contestant would just win the money he gained. Later on though, it was changed; the contestant won the money that he or she had already won from Stein plus an additional $1,000.

Versions outside the USA

A British version, called "Win Beadle's Money", hosted by Jeremy Beadle, ran in the UK in 1999. The format was the same as listed above. Richard Morton was co-host.

"Win Roy & H.G.'s Money", an Australian version hosted by comedy duo Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson ran for a handful of episodes in 2000.

Show comeback with a new host?

In 2005, Comedy Central announced that Ken Jennings, television's second-biggest all-time game show money winner would join with Valleycrest Productions in creating a new show. It has been rumored it would be a re-packaging of the show with the title being changed to "Win Ken Jennings' Money".

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