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The Gong Show

The Gong Show Description:

Contestants in the weirdest talent show on TV showed off their amateur acts. In this early version of "stupid people tricks," contestants with talents ranging from okay to awful performed onstage for a celebrity panel of judges. The worst acts were "gonged" off the stage when one of the judges grabbed a mallet and struck a huge brass gong. The very worst performers were pulled offstage with a long hook.

Performers who managed to get to the end of their acts were given ratings by the judges from one to ten. The contestant scoring closest to 30 won the top prize of $516.32 ($712.05 was awarded on the prime time edition).

Regular contestants included Murray Langston, whom fans will remember as the "Unknown Comic." Langston performed a semi-regular comedy routine on the show.  In each of his appearances, his face was hidden by a brown paper bag. Go over here to check out old reruns late at night.

The Gong Show Premiered: June 14, 1976

The Gong Show

Chuck Barris

Gary Owens


Don Bleu


The Gong Show
Judges (included):
Siv Alberg

Pearl Bailey

Phyllis Diller

Jamie Farr

Steve Garvey

Harry James

Arte Johnson

David Letterman

Steve Martin

Pat McCormick

Jaye P. Morgan

Louis Nye

Pat Paulsen

Tony Randall

Rex Reed

Soupy Sales

Rip Taylor

Dionne Warwick

Anson Williams

The Gong Show

Johnny Jacobs


Charlie O'Donnell


The Gong Show
Regular Performers:

The Unknown Comic (Murray Langston)

He was a stand-up comic that hid his face behind a paper bag, initially so his friends wouldn't recognize him on the show.

Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine

He was a stagehand that won his time in the spotlight when the show ran short one day. He became an instant hit.

The Gong Show
Celebrity Appearances:

Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman)

Performed as a contestant four times, including episode 207

Mare Winningham

Performed as a contestant on episode 400

The Gong Show Trivia:

  • Released in 1980 by Universal Pictures, The Gong Show Movie starred Chuck Barris, Jaye P. Morgan, Rip Taylor and Murray Langston.
  • The original pilot episode was hosted by Gary Owens. The celebrity judges were Jo Anne Worley, Adrienne Barbeau, Richard Dawson and Arte Johnson.
  • John Barbour (Real People) was chosen to be the original host on NBC. He taped five shows which never aired.
  • Chuck Barris, Jaye P. Morgan and Jamie Farr appeared together on the cover of People magazine in 1994.
  • More "Gong Show" trivia at E! Online

    The Gong Show
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    The Gong Show
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    The Gong Show
    Contestant Stories:

    "I appeared, along with a group of (gulp) mimes, on 'The Gong Show' in the mid to late 70's. We were then known as 'The Great Northwestern Dumb Show' and did Roaring 20's (Buster Keaton - Charlie Chaplin) type silent sketches. We were on twice, once in the daytime slot and asked back again for the night time slot. We were Gonged both times but Chuck Barris thought we were funny so he asked us back. The cool part is: In the daytime you were considered a contestant but in the night time version you were considered an entertainer so you got paid scale whether you were gonged or not.

    "I remember being back stage in the waiting area which was a huge hanger type building. At about noon these double doors slowly open and in comes carts and carts of food and drink. There were all these out of work actors, singers, and entertainers. They looked at the cornacopia of food stuffs and pounced! People stuffing food in their costume bags, purses, ad gunny sacks. It was hilarious.

    "Also, you know at the end of the show where they say, "Our contestants also win gifts from JiffyPop popcorn, Turtle Wax, etc."? Well when they reran the night time episode for the second time, not only did we receive AFTRA residules but we ALSO GOT THE TURTLE WAX AND POPCORN AGAIN! I swear there wasn't a dull turtle in all of Los Angeles, they were all shiney and bright from all that wax. We had popcorn coming out of our ears for months.

    "Since then I've moved back to Washington State but others in the group stayed and did okay. Dave Johnstone is a writer and director in Hollywood, Bruce Talkington is an Emmy award winning writer for the Disney Studios, Paul Blatt is still acting and dancing I believe, and MacIntosh is in Seattle workin the Seattle Theatre scene.

    "It was a great time and, now that I'm 50, I remember it and laugh." -- Steven Buechler

    "A friend of mine, singer Jimmy Hodges (real last name Ellis), was a winner on the Gong Show in 1976 with a score of 27. He sounds a lot like Elvis but was never an impersonator. He sang the Wayne Newton song 'Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast.' He is no longer with us as he was shot in a robbery in his pawn shop in the late 90's. -- Allen Damron

    "My Dad was a contestant on The Gong Show. His stage name was Fats Beetle, and I think he sang 'My Cheating Heart.' He passed away in 1986. His real name was Howard Whitsel, and he had five children before he passed away, three girls and two boys. I believe he probably was a contestant in 1978. I remember a belly dancer on that show. They have him on The Gong Show movie. I think he was a contestant more than once." -- Wendy

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    SEE ALSO  

     1970s Game Shows