After 35 years as host of “The Price Is Right,” Bob Barker is still on his toes.
The iconic gameshow host won’t sit down during a taping — even when the show is in commercial breaks — and insists on engaging with the audience and keeping them entertained, whether the red light on the camera is on or off.
“I have to be out there, keeping the energy up,” explains Barker, who will turn 83 in December and is celebrating his 50th consecutive year on television, during which he hosted classic gameshow “Truth or Consequences.” “It’s really kind of a selfish thing because it’s easier when you get the audience up to keep them there. I also want to be talking with them to look for little nuggets of gold that I might be able to use later in conversation with the contestants.”
Barbara Bloom, senior VP of daytime at CBS, thinks Barker’s appeal is that he cuts across demographics.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a grandmother or a college student, you’ve watched ‘The Price Is Right’ and had fun doing it because of what Bob brings as a host,” says Bloom. “He never makes himself more important than the player or the game, so what comes across is just the pure enjoyment of playing along.”
Syd Vinnedge, the FreemantleMedia executive who works with “The Price Is Right,” agrees.
“Every day he walks through those doors, he’s fresh. That’s an amazing thing after decades of doing the show,” says Vinnedge. “He finds something new in each show and a way to make it different and fun.”
FreemantleMedia, which has more than 100 gameshow formats, considers “The Price Is Right” its “crown jewel,” says Vinnedge, because of its wide and long-term appeal.
Barker, who surpassed Johnny Carson’s record for continuous performances on a network TV series in 2002, attributes a lot of the excitement to the audience.
Still, hosting a game show is not without its hazards.
“It’s a very dangerous job being next to someone when they win a new car or a large prize package,” says Barker. “I’ve been stepped on, jumped on, hit, butted in the solar plexus and I’ve even had cartilage torn when a young man, who was a wrestler, got so excited he picked me up and hugged me so hard.”
Barker’s career includes 17 Emmys (13 as host, three as exec producer and one Lifetime Achievement Award) and he was also inducted into the TV Acad Hall of Fame in 2004.
The network recently honored Barker by renaming its Stage 33 at CBS Television City the Bob Barker Studio.
“I’ve worked with a lot of big entertainers, and no one is as good with people as Bob,” confesses Vinnedge. “If I had 20,000 people, and I had to entertain them, I’d rather have Bob Barker than anyone else He’s an incredibly smart performer who can really handle any situation in a live environment.”
It seems the only thing Barker probably can’t do well is play his own game.
“I’d be a total failure at ‘The Price Is Right’ because my housekeeper does all my shopping,” says Barker. “But that’s not my job. My job is about people and making sure everyone is having a great time, whether they’re in the studio playing the game or at home watching it.”