When I was a kid, I’d spend hours after school watching episode after episode of Game Show Network’s "Family Feud." I’d call out the answers along with the contestants, cheering when we got it right, and throwing my hands up in exasperation when we got it wrong. But the main reason I watched the show was for its host: Steve Harvey. He charmed me, and most of America, with his one-liners, contagious laughter, and sensational mustache.
Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that we’ve been duped.
Three months ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and I came across what, at the time, I thought was a gift from none other than Jesus Christ: a link to free Family Feud audience tickets. Although they seemed a bit sketch, I immediately entered my name and email and texted my friends to tell them we were all going to be famous. They were skeptical but went along with it, and when I got a confirmation email, we looked up the website and it turned out that being the audience on a game show is a lot easier than everybody thought.
April 7th quickly arrived, and I started freaking out with nervous anticipation in seeing my childhood idol. The day of the taping, after waiting two hours, we finally entered the studio and were greeted with the familiar pulsing blue and orange lights of Family Feud’s game screens. The family’s names were on the LED boards behind them, but their tables were empty. The set was a little smaller than I had expected, and it was like peering into a playhouse. Everything seemed artificial and a little bit empty, but soon Steve Harvey stepped out and filled the room with his gleaming white teeth and hearty laugh. The audience seemed to collectively lean forward in their seats, holding onto every word that left his lips. When he made a joke, we laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world. When the theme music blasted through the speakers, we clapped and danced to the catchy beat. A strong energy flowed throughout the room, and its power source? Steve Harvey.
All was well, until the Q&A arrived. For those who aren’t familiar with how Family Feud is taped, they film it in bits, and between each question, they have a five-minute break where Steve Harvey interacts with the audience and answers some of our questions. It’s a great sentiment… until you realize what a complete and utter a-hole Steve Harvey is.
Before the show began, we filled out the Q&A cards (my card asked Steve what his favorite kind of barbecue was. It didn’t get picked). The first card that Steve Harvey answered was from a woman in the audience, who sat right in front of us. He read it aloud: “I’m tired of being single. Why can’t I get a man?” Immediately, his eyes scanned the crowd.
“Which one of you wrote this? Stand up,” he ordered.
The crowd was still, and, after a moment, the woman in front of us slowly rose. She was nervous and excited, like the rest of us, to be face to face with a man whom she probably idolized as much as I did.
He nodded sagely. “I knew it was you,” he said. Sure you did, Steve. “You just had this attitude as soon as you walked in.” I had been sitting behind this woman, and she was doing nothing to indicate that she was displeased with anything. In fact, she was one of the most enthusiastic members of the audience that I had seen so far. She was obviously very happy to be here, but as Steve continued to speak, I noticed her excitement begin to deflate.
“Let me tell you something. Just by looking at you, I can tell, you’re too sharp. Men like women who are soft.” And, as my heart slowly dropped, I listened to Steve Harvey tell this woman that she had to be nice, agreeable, and polite--all the things a “proper” woman should be. Oh, and she couldn’t chase guys! No, according to Steve Harvey, only men can pursue women. Us women have to wait around to be courted. Apparently, we’re in the early 1900’s again.
Okay, I thought to myself, let’s keep an open mind. I’m sure he’s not that bad.
I have never been so wrong about something in my life.
In a later Q&A, he asked for television recommendations. A man in the back called out: “Will and Grace!”
Will and Grace, if you aren’t familiar with the show, features two gay characters. This was apparently too much for Steve Harvey’s heart to take.
“Oh, no,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t do that shit. I just don’t understand how they can put that on TV. My kids are watching this! Two men kissing? It just,” he shook his head again, this time, more slowly, “It’s just not right. That should be between a man and a woman. Now,” he said with a chuckle, “put two women on the TV, and I’ll watch that! Does the show have any beautiful women?”
At this point, the idealized image of a cheerful comedian was slowly fading in my mind, only to be replaced with one of a close-minded jerk. He then went into a tangent on Caitlin Jenner, whom he ridiculed incessantly.
“I just don’t get that, a grown man in a dress and heels. I don’t get it. Is there something wrong with him?” he asked the crowd.
At this point, I was fully aware of Steve Harvey’s true character and was not very good at hiding my anger. Neither were my friends. All around us, the crowd cheered and riled up Steve Harvey, while we seethed. Instead of being a family game show, this was turning into a compilation of Steve Harvey’s hateful and ignorant rants.
Finally, with a wave of his magic wand, Steve Harvey closed the show by giving us some invaluable life advice, that went a little like this:
“I like to end my shows my giving you all some tips. Especially for the young people out there. I think you can put your minds to whatever you want to. Ladies, if you want to work at a hair salon, or do fake eyelashes, then do it!”
He then told us to quit law school and bake pies, because he knew this one woman who baked pies and is now famous. I cannot make this up.
He then attempted to cover up all the things he had said earlier, looking directly at me and my friends, who, at this point, had started muttering, “Is he serious? Are you kidding? This is BS,” louder and louder. I glared at him.
“Everybody,” he said, “I know that some people, they can’t take my jokes, and get angry, but I’m a comedian! I make jokes! That’s what I do. So, don’t get angry for me just doing my job.” And just like that, I felt instantly at peace, immediately soothed by Steve’s reassuring words. It was just a joke, no need for me to be angry!
Or, more realistically, my friends and I got out of there as soon as the staff let us leave the studio, and thoroughly insulted Steve Harvey during the ride home.
I don’t watch Family Feud anymore, and Steve Harvey is dead to me. But if there’s one important thing that this whole ordeal taught me, it’s that celebrities are people, and sometimes bad people at that. We tend to idolize them, to think that the face they’re showing the television is indicative of their true character, but this is not always the case. The Steve Harvey I fell in love with was not the Steve Harvey I saw. His gentle charm is as fake as the set they film in.
And, to the woman who had clung onto every word Steve Harvey gave to her on her love life, who clapped a little softer and laughed a little quieter after he gave her his speech, who’s looking for love and feels frustrated that she isn’t finding it:
Don’t listen to Steve—he’s a moron. You do you, and don’t alter your personality for any dudes. If they’re right for you, they’ll accept you for exactly who you are. This isn’t the olden days; we don’t need to be quiet and pleasant just to placate men. Be proud of who you are, sharp edges and all.