During each show, the audience viewed a previously taped segment featuring children or families put in unusual situations. The tape was stopped before the outcome and Summers asked the audience to vote on either what they would do in the same situation or what the outcome would be. After the results were tallied, the outcome was played.
Special guests, usually performers from other Universal Studios attractions, appeared on What Would You Do? and picked audience members to perform gross, silly or extraordinary stunts. Stunts could involve handling animals, painting, dancing or creating sound effects.
Additional segments included contests between two selected audience members ("Anything You Can Do"). These contests ranged from who could finish a glass of milk the fastest, to seeing who could inflate and pop a balloon the fastest. The end result of these contests would be the winner having the opportunity to smash a whipped cream pie in the face of the loser.
The end of each episode in the first season featured the What Would You Do? Medley, where certain audience members and Summers had index cards attached to their foreheads. Each card had a different stunt such as "Hidden Talent," "Peanut Butter Jumping Jacks," "Eat a Twinkie with Gravy,", "put your feet in worms / dog food" or "Mashed Potato Volcano" listed on it. The participant either had to do what it said on the card, sight unseen, or be sent to the Pie Pod (explained below.) On several occasions, Summers' card told him to go to the Pie Pod. On a few episodes, participants who did not perform the activity specified on the card were sent to the Pie Slide rather than the Pie Pod.
In the second season, the Medley was replaced with the Wall o' Stuff, a wall of numbered doors, each hiding a prize or surprise. Each audience member was assigned a number; if his or her number was drawn from a lottery machine, that participant received a token to open one of the doors. Some of the doors had What Would You Do? merchandise, such as a T-shirt or a gym bag; others concealed pies that would be flung at the contestants' face (or a water cannon filled with whipped cream, which would be squirted at the contestant). In addition, an unlucky participant could receive a card that sent them to one of the pie contraptions. This card often had a corny poem written on it, such as: "We've got a one-track mind, and so will you/A trip down the Pie Coaster on 'What Would You Do?'" or "You didn't win a car, you didn't win a toaster/You won a trip to the pie coaster". On one such occasion, the card said, "We couldn't think of anything to rhyme with 'Pie Wash,' so just go there." Sometimes, winning a stunt would award a token for the Wall o' Stuff. In these instances, those who won their tokens would take their turn at the Wall before any balls were drawn from the lottery machine.
The cream pie was central to the show's premise, and was frequently doled out as "punishment" (or sometimes, a reward) for anything. Whenever audience members were picked to perform a stunt, they were given the option to either perform it or go to one of several pie contraptions. Alternatively, failure to complete a stunt could also send someone to one of these devices. Robin would place the tarp/goggles on the audience member and pump up the chair in the first season(although on more than one occasion Robin forgot to pump up the chair, resulting in "misses" by the pies that would be direct hits if their head was on the bullseye). During the second season, staff members wearing red jumpsuits that read "Pie Pod Attendant", "Pie Wash Attendant", or "Pie Coaster Attendant" took over the duties of preparing the devices.
- Pie Pod - The most used and most popular "pie device" on the show, this contraption could launch up to four whipped cream pies at one audience member. He or she would be set up in a hydraulic chair and covered with a clear plastic tarp, leaving his or her head exposed. Then the chair, which resembled a barber's chair or an antique-style dentist's chair, would be pumped up until the participant's head was aligned with a target behind him or her. Summers asked the audience (or the winning player, in case of a game that sends the loser to the Pie Pod) how many pies should be launched -- "4" was the usual answer -- and then released them, following a count of three. During the first season, a device called the "Crowning Glory" was suspended over the participant's head. This was a container shaped like a crown that held a small amount of pink slime. Most of the time this was only released if the audience determined that the "victim" flinched during the release of the pies; however it could be used for any random occasion Marc deemed warranted it, such as it being someone's birthday. In the second season, the Crowning Glory was removed, but a fifth pie was added; in addition, participants were no longer covered with a smock, and the large lab goggles were replaced with small swimming goggles. (Incidentally, on very early episodes, the Pie Pod could be loaded with up to six pies - but the two outer ones were never launched, and were subsequently removed.) On even earlier episodes, the audience member would not get a plastic tarp to protect their clothes, and/or no goggles, or only safety glasses that were usually knocked right off with a direct hit.
- Pie Slide - By far the messiest. An audience member was sent to the top of a playground slide which ended up in a large vat filled with hundreds of gallons of whipped cream. Participants were usually allowed to choose whether to go head first or feet first, but all were required to go down the slide barefoot. One memorable "Pie Slide" incident featured a young woman during the "What Would You Do? Medley" segment who opted to ride the Pie Slide headfirst rather than eat a Twinkie with gravy; when it was all over; the woman, laughing hysterically, her whole body covered in cream, openly wished she had chosen to eat the Twinkie with gravy. The Pie Slide was featured only in the first season; in the second season, it was replaced by the Pie Coaster (see below), which was much less messy.
- Pie Pendulum - A family was selected, with one family member being strapped to a long board with his face hanging over the side. Five questions were asked to this participant, with each incorrect answer reculting in a family member turning a crank which lowered the victim's face toward a large pie. Three incorrect answers resulted in the victim's face landing in the pie; three correct answers resulted in the victim being "saved" and him being able to choose another member of his family to lower all the way into the pie.
- Pie in the Sky - Two participants were chosen. Three bowls were stacked directly above each participant's head, with the top one containing pink slime (referred to as "pie filling".) The participants were asked questions; each time a participant missed one, one of three levers was pulled, allowing the slime to be emptied into the bowl underneath the current one. Three incorrect answers resulted in the third lever being pulled, releasing the "pie filling" onto the contestant's head.
- Pie Roulette - Borrowed from Wild and Crazy Kids, another Woody Fraser/Nickelodeon production, the chosen participants took turns being seated at a table loaded with a pie. The contestant placed his/her head in a chin rest on the table. He/she then rolled a die, and had to turn a crank whatever number of times the die showed. At any time the crank was being turned, the device could spring the pie, which would land in the contestant's face. In addition, a bucket containing the aforementioned pink "pie filling" was positioned above the contestant's head; if the audience voted that the contestant flinched at any time (whether he was pied or not), the bucket would be released onto his/her head. On at least one occasion a contestant was slimed with the bucket even though he had not been pied. (On the Wild and Crazy Kids version, this bucket was filled with actual cherry pie filling, and was "reloaded" after each use.)
- Pie Wash - appearing in the second season only, this device would have the audience member sit in a large leather chair and be strapped in with a seatbelt, while three nozzles above attempted to spray the audience member with whipped cream while he was being spun around rapidly, before it "cleaned him or her up" using a rotating car wash styled brush. The Pie Wash often failed to get whipped cream onto the participant, as the whipped cream had either melted in the contraption (causing it to simply dribble out onto the floor), or the hoses failed to spray it out altogether. On the occasions when it did work, however, the contestant was immersed. As with the Pie Pod, the "Pie Wash" victim was made to wear swimming goggles.
- Pie Coaster - replacing the Pie Slide for the second season of the show, this was a mini roller coaster which ended with an audience member crashing into an oversized pie which stood on its side. At first the contestant would crash through some paper What Would You Do? banners before crashing into the giant pie. The participant usually got hit multiple times as he rocked back and forth on the final dip, where the pie was located; however, since participants were required to wear a large helmet with a full-face clear shield when on the Pie Coaster, the messiness relative to the other devices was severely limited.
In addition, the show often featured pieing-related variations on games such as Musical Chairs, Simon Says, Rock, Paper, Scissors, and "One-Potato-Two-Potato." In the WWYD "Musical Chairs" (redubbed "Musical Pies"), contestants seated together in a row passed around a cream pie while music played; when the music stopped, the person left holding the pie had to stick it into his or her face, and if the person refused, a family member or friend would be called down to pie him or her. The winner was awarded a "real" pie (i.e. a cherry or apple pie) to take home and would not be required to hit himself or herself with the pie. The second season often featured "family challenge" games which pitted entire families against each other in performing certain activities; the family with the fewest pied members when the game was over would be declared the winner. On other occasions, one family was divided into several teams (ladies vs. men, kids vs. parents, etc.) Most of the time the winning team got to choose from getting a token to the "Wall o' Stuff" for each winning team member, or sending the losing team member(s) to a pie device.
A handful of episodes during the first season, promoted as "Pie-a-Thons," were made up entirely of stunts, games and activities featuring pies and also pitted the children in the audience against the adults. In a departure from normal shows, the winners could pie themselves, thus earning points for their team. One popular "Pie-a-Thon" feature was the "Pie Lottery," in which each member of the audience was assigned a number and any person whose number was called would be given the opportunity to pie himself or herself; on rare occasions, a person who did not wish to pie himself or herself would get to pie a family member or friend or someone else of his or her choosing. At the end of the show, one child and one adult would stand by the Pie Slide and exchange two envelopes repeatedly until a buzzer sounded. At that point, the audience would vote on who should go down the Pie Slide. The winner of the vote went down the pie slide, then opened their envelope. One of the envelopes hid a zero, the other hid either a 50 or a 100. Each participant earned their team the number of points in their envelope; usually it would be enough to win the show.
The first season of What Would You Do? also often featured segments taped as the show's crew traversed the Nickelodeon Studios theme park in Orlando searching for participants. The activities in which volunteers participated were sometimes pie-related (i.e. "Do an impression of a cartoon character being hit with a pie," or being given the choice of pieing themselves or someone else of their choosing), but more often involved performing stunts of some kind or a Candid Camera or Punk'd-style "hidden camera" prank.
Robin Marrella left the series in 1992, but continued to work with Summers on Double Dare (at that time, Family Double Dare). Instead of a permanent replacement, a kid from the audience was picked to be "Co-Host of the Day" for the remainder of the series' run, expanding on the show's audience participation theme. Co-hosts were compensated with a token to the Wall o' Stuff. When this outlived its usefulness (the kids were often very shy), a chimpanzee named Corey was brought on stage to hand Summers props and supply corny primate-related jokes through voiceover acting.