The Unknown Comic
|The Unknown Comic|
|Birth name||Murray Langston|
|Born||1945 (age 68–69)
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
|Medium||Stand-up, television, film|
|Genres||Character comedy, observational comedy, satire, surreal humor, sarcasm|
|Subject(s)||American culture, everyday life, human behavior, pop culture|
The Unknown Comic is the stage name of Canadian-American actor and stand-up comic Murray Langston (born 1945, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada), best known for his comic performances on The Gong Show, usually appearing with a paper bag over his head. Langston lives in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada.
Murray Langston was born in Canada and left home at the age of 15 because his parents, disabled and financially strapped, could not afford to raise him and his younger siblings. He emigrated to the United States by joining the U.S. Navy, serving during the Vietnam war but never seeing battle action as a sailor.
Langston began his show business career in 1970, on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, doing impressions of a fork, a tube of toothpaste and a grandfather clock. Later, at the suggestion of Redd Foxx, he teamed with comedian Freeman King, and, after appearing on several episodes of The Midnight Special, they were spotted by producers and soon became regular performers on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Langston and King performed music and comedy sketches with the hosts and guest stars.
After more than 100 appearances with Sonny and Cher, Langston began to make appearances on other prime time television shows, including The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, The Wolfman Jack Show, and The Bobby Vinton Show.
Early in his career, Langston invested in a nightclub restaurant called "SHOW-BIZ". Several now-famous people worked there as servers, including Debra Winger, Michael Keaton (known as Michael Douglas at the time), David Letterman, Gallagher, Tim Reid, Freddy Prinze and Redd Foxx; however, the club closed within two years, taking Langston's savings. Strapped for cash, he accepted an offer to appear on The Gong Show. He was reportedly embarrassed about appearing on the show, so with the director's permission, he put a paper bag over his head with holes for his eyes and mouth, memorized a few old jokes, and burst onto the show as "The Unknown Comic". The character, a frenetic speed-jokester in smarmy attire, was a hit and developed a cult following. Langston, as The Unknown Comic, appeared on more than 150 Gong Shows and also entertained as a celebrity judge on several other television shows. He also wrote for The Gong Show for a short time. He appeared regularly in Las Vegas and made the rounds of many popular talk and variety shows. In the early '80s Langston revealed himself as The Unknown Comic on an episode of Real People (the bag on his head was pulled off by the show's hosts), as well at the conclusion of a match on the celebrity edition of the game show Bullseye.
Langston later produced The Unknown Comedy Hour for Playboy TV, followed by The Sex and Violence Family Hour, starring a very young Jim Carrey. He also wrote the screenplays for the films Night Patrol (1984), Up Your Alley (1988), and Wishful Thinking (1997), and was co-host of "The NEW Truth or Consequences" (1987). He also had a role in the 1989 children's TV series E.M.U-TV as Murray the Technical Director.
Langston most recently reappeared as The Unknown Comic in the film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He wrote, directed and performed in Dirty Jokes: The Movie. Inspired by the hit live show The Vagina Monologues, he created and performed "one man's response" to the show, which he called The Weenie Man-o-logs.
Twice divorced by the early 1990s, Langston decided to semi-retire from show business to concentrate on raising his daughters as a single father. His elder daughter, Myah Marie, is a singer-songwriter who wrote and published more than 50 songs by the age of 19; she has recorded with notable pop stars including Britney Spears. His younger daughter, Mary, lives with Langston on their hillside ranch near the mountain town of Tehachapi, California, about 70 miles from Los Angeles.
Langston occasionally appears as a stand-up comic in Las Vegas and is writing a book of memoirs. He is active in charity work, particularly for children's advocacy causes.
- Rabin, Nathan (April 18, 2001). "Murray Langston - The Unkown Comic". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- Ross, John (October 26, 2009). "Murray Langston – Out of the Bag". AmericasComedy.com.
- Eakin, Marah; Teti, John; Adams, Erik (June 16, 2014). "Bonus round stars: 9 celebrities who found their greatest fame on game shows". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- Canby, Vincent (March 9, 1985). "The Screen: 'Night Patrol'". The New York Times.