It Pays To Be Ignorant was a radio show that premiered on June 25, 1942, first as a spoof of the quiz show, Doctor I.Q. and then as a parody to Quiz Kids and Information, Please. The questions were doled out by host and quizmaster Tom Howard to the satirical panel of three “experts” who answered them with humor and wit.
Moronic questions such as From what kind of mines do we get gold ore? were answered in extremely hilarious and stupid monologues that were sometimes irreverent and rude. Bob Howell, who was working with Ruth Howard, daughter of vaudevillian, Tom Howard, first conceived It Pays To Be Ignorant. Ruth commandeered Howell’s outline and worked it into a script that lampooned other popular quiz shows.
The first task was to find a group that would be comfortable with the sometimes deadpan answers and that could quickly think of witty puns. They chose George Shelton, who had worked with Howard in vaudeville. Harry McNaughton found his fame as Bottle, the butler on Phil Baker’s radio show was also chosen to be one of panelists on It Pays To Be Ignorant. During the first few airings, the third panelist was Ann Thomas, but she was soon replaced by Lulu McConnell, whose gritty voice and coarse personality filled the show with nonsensical wisecracks and tomfoolery that delighted the audience.
By the time It Pays To Be Ignorant aired, radio audiences were tiring of the intellectual quiz shows. It Pays To Be Ignorant was different than other quiz shows and enjoyed the barbs that flew between contestants as much as the dumb answers they provided.
Eventually, Ruth Howard married Bob Howell and they collaborated on the scripts for It Pays To Be Ignorant until Bob passed away in 1944. Ruth continued writing the scripts after his death, but host, Tom Howard edited them to make sure the jokes flowed smoothly.
For a while, the concept of It Pays To Be Ignorant was a skit on The Kate Smith Hour. Critics didn’t give the show a chance to survive, but It Pays To Be Ignorant hoodwinked everyone by lasting for more than nine years, sponsored by Philip Morris, DeSoto and Chrysler, upholding its popularity the entire time.
It Pays To Be Ignorant was seen on television from June to September of 1949 on CBS, and on NBC from July to September of 1951, with the original cast of the radio show. In 1973, the show was syndicated by Hatos-Hall Productions and shown as a weekly series with Joe Flynn as the host and Jo Anne Worley, Billy Baxter and Charles Nelson Reilly as panelists. Later, in the mid-1950s, Jackie Gleason spoofed It Pays To Be Ignorant on his television show.