The Gong Show

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Gong Show
The Gong Show logo.jpg
Created byChris Bearde
Directed byJohn Dorsey
Terry Kyne
Presented byChuck Barris
John Barbour
Gary Owens (1976-1977 nighttime season)
Don Bleu
Dave Attell
Mike Myers as Tommy Maitland
Narrated byJohnny Jacobs
Jack Clark
Charlie O'Donnell
Will Arnett
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes501 NBC
20 Revival
Producer(s)Gene Banks
Diane Fell
Linda Howard
Production location(s)NBC Studios
Burbank, California (1976–79)
Golden West Broadcasting
Hollywood, California (1979–80)
CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1988–89)
Running time18 minutes (early NBC episodes)
23 minutes
42 minutes
Production company(s)Chuck Barris Productions (1976–80)
Chris Bearde Productions (1976–78, 1988–89)
Barris Productions (1988–89)
Barris Industries (1988–89)
Sony Pictures Television (2017–2018)
DistributorFirestone Program Syndication Co. (1976–80)
Barris Advertising Sales (1988–89) (ad-sales)
Barris Program Sales (1988–89)
Sony Pictures Television
Original networkNBC (1976–1978)
Syndicated (1976–77, 1977–80, 1988–89)
GSN (1998–1999)
Comedy Central (2008)
ABC (2017–2018)
Original releaseOriginal series
June 14, 1976 –
September 15, 1989
Revival series
June 22, 2017 – August 30, 2018

The Gong Show is an American amateur talent contest franchised by Sony Pictures Television to many countries. It was broadcast on NBC's daytime schedule from June 14, 1976, through July 21, 1978, and in first-run syndication from 1976 to 1980 and 1988 to 1989, and was revived in 2017 for broadcast on ABC. The show was created and originally produced by Chuck Barris, who also served as host for the NBC run and from 1977 to 1980 in syndication. Its most recent version was executive-produced by Will Arnett and hosted by Tommy Maitland, a fictional character performed by Mike Myers (uncredited in Season 1). The Gong Show is known for its absurdist humor and style, with the actual competition secondary to the often outlandish acts presented; a small cash prize has typically been awarded to each show's winner.


Each show presented a competition of amateur performers of often dubious talent, with a panel of three celebrity judges. The original program's regular judges included Jamie Farr, Jaye P. Morgan, Arte Johnson, Patty Andrews, Phyllis Diller, Pat McCormick, Anson Williams, Steve Garvey, Rex Reed and Rip Taylor. Other celebrities who appeared as judges included Charlie Brill, Mitzi McCall, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Paul Williams, Dionne Warwick, Carl Ballantine, Pearl Bailey, Louis Nye, Scatman Crothers, Jack Cassidy, Soupy Sales, June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Dorothy Lamour, Shari Lewis, Allen Ludden, Jo Anne Worley, Charlotte Rae, Elke Sommer, Rue McClanahan, Michele Lee, Marty Allen, Clifton Davis, Mort Sahl, Ronnie Schell, Fred Travalena, Gary Mule Deer, Johnny Paycheck, Elayne Boosler, Rosey Grier, Della Reese, Milt Kamen, Sammy Cahn, Barbara McNair, Wayland Flowers & Madame, Trini Lopez, Chuck Woolery, Joanie Sommers, Jack Youngblood, Helen O'Connell, Margaret Whiting, Martha Reeves, Ja'Net DuBois, LaWanda Page and Mabel King. If any judge considered an act to be particularly bad, he or she could force it to stop by striking a large gong, a trope adapted from the durable radio show Major Bowes Amateur Hour.[1] Most of the performers took the gong with sheepish good grace, but there were exceptions. Barris would then ask the judge(s) in question why they had gonged the act.

Originally, panelists had to wait only 20 seconds before they could "gong" an act, but after a few episodes this was extended to 30 seconds, and then to 45. Some performers would deliberately end their acts early, before the minimum time had elapsed, if it appeared that a judge was about to gong them, though Barris would immediately disqualify them when this occurred. Sometimes, a judge would gong an act before its minimum time was up; Barris would overrule the gong, and the act would be obliged to continue with its fate already sealed. Occasionally, Barris would overrule a gong and permit an act to continue if he felt it was unjustifiably gonged or he simply felt sorry for the performers.

When an act was on the verge of being gonged, the laughter and anticipation built as the judges patiently waited to deliver the strike. They would stand up slowly and heft their mallets deliberately, letting everyone know what was coming. Sometimes, pantomimed disputes would erupt between judges, as one would attempt to physically obstruct another from gonging the act. The camera would cut back and forth between the performers on stage and the mock struggle over their fate. Some acts were so bad that two or even all three judges struck the gong at once (referred to by Barris as being "gang-gonged"). On rare occasions, judges found an act so terrible that they would go onstage, hand a mallet to the performer, and lead them back to the table to gong themself out.

Any act that survived without being gonged was given a score by each of the three judges on a scale of 0 to 10, for a maximum possible score of 30. On the NBC series, the contestant who achieved the highest combined score won the grand prize: a check for $516.32 (a "highly unusual amount", in Barris's words; reportedly the Screen Actors Guild's minimum pay for a day's work at the time) and a "Golden Gong" trophy. The syndicated series' top prize was originally $712.05 (the first episode was $996.83) and later increased to $716.32.[2] In the event of a tie, three different tiebreakers were used at various times during the show's run. Originally the studio audience determined the winner by applause, but this was later changed to a decision by the producers, and later by the celebrity judges. On rare occasions, both acts would each receive a check and a trophy. No prize was awarded if all of the acts on a particular episode were gonged, which occurred at least twice. Runners-up received a consumer appliance; Maureen Orth, on her February 24, 1977, appearance, reported receiving an iron valued at $33.95 for her second-place finish.[3]

When Barris announced the final score, a little person in formal wear (actor and former Munchkin Jerry Maren) would run onstage, throwing confetti while balloons dropped from overhead.

The daily Gong Show also gave out a "Worst Act of the Week" award (later changed to the "Most Outrageous Act of the Week"), selected by the producers and each week's judges. The winner of this award was announced following the trophy presentation on Friday's show, and the performer received a dirty tube sock and a check for $516.32.

Originally, the series was advertised as having each day's winning contestants come back after a few weeks (this is also mentioned in the pilot episode) to compete in a "tournament of champions", with the winner being given the chance to appear in an unspecified nightclub act. However, only one of these tournaments was ever held. The winners on the NBC daytime show became eligible to appear on the syndicated evening version of the show for a chance to win that show's prize. Occasionally, some of the show's more entertaining or unusual acts were invited back to perform again without being judged and scored.

Legitimate talent[edit]

The two biggest Gong Show-related showbiz successes were Andrea McArdle and Cheryl Lynn. Twelve-year-old McArdle appeared on an early show in 1976, shortly before winning the lead role in the hit Broadway musical Annie. Lynn was signed to a recording contract as a result of her performance, and recorded the Top 40 disco hit "Got To Be Real".

Among the other true talents that appeared on the show were singer Boxcar Willie; comics and actors Paul Reubens and John Paragon (best known as Pee Wee Herman and Jambi the Genie); Joey D'Auria ("Professor Flamo", later WGN's second Bozo the Clown); impressionist/comic Michael Winslow; novelty rock band Green Jellÿ,[4] and a band called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo which evolved into Oingo Boingo, led by future film and television score composer Danny Elfman. Crips founder, and executed murderer, Stanley Tookie Williams appeared on the show in 1979 as a bodybuilder. In 1976, future Academy Award nominated actress Mare Winningham sang the Beatles song "Here, There, and Everywhere". Future Super Bowl XXXV winning head coach Brian Billick also made an appearance, performing a routine known as the "spider monkey". Dancer Danny Lockin, who had played Barnaby in the film Hello Dolly!, was murdered hours after winning the show taped August 21, 1977.[5] Journalist Maureen Orth, then writing for Newsweek, appeared in 1977 with a second-place showing, appearing as "The World's Oldest Cheerleader."[3]

Recurring bits[edit]

The program's air of spontaneity was enhanced through various comic appearances by supporting staff, technical/stage crew and house band members; as such, the show had many running gags and characters who appeared as regular performers:

  • The Unknown Comic (Murray Langston, formerly of the Sonny and Cher TV stock company) was a stand-up comedian who told intentionally corny jokes while wearing a paper bag over his head. ("You've heard of a boxer?" asked Langston. "This is a bagger!") Eventually, Langston would beckon to "Chuckie" and tell insulting jokes at his expense ("Have you ever made love to your wife in the shower?" "No." "Well, you should, she loves it!"). Barris would then feign anger and eject Langston from the show. Langston (as The Unknown Comic) later made appearances as a judge on the show.
  • Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (Gene Patton) was a heavy-set, middle-aged black man wearing a green sweater jacket and flat cap. Gene-Gene's arrival would always be treated as though it were a glorious surprise to everyone on the show, especially Barris. Upon hearing the opening notes to his theme music (an arrangement of "Jumpin' at the Woodside", a popular Count Basie song), Barris's face would light up and he would stop the show, yielding the stage to Gene-Gene. Members of the crew would toss random objects from the wings, littering the stage while Gene-Gene danced on, oblivious to the activity around him. The audience would cheer and applauded wildly throughout Gene-Gene's performance as they, Barris and the panelists would enthusiastically mimic his dance moves, which consisted primarily of a slow-footed chug-chug motion punctuated by an occasional, exultant fist pointed skyward. Typically, the dance break would be interrupted by a commercial or by the show's promotional announcements. In reality, Patton was an NBC stagehand whose backstage dancing caught the attention of Barris, who moved him out in front of the curtain when time ran short during an episode. He added membership in AFTRA to his existing IATSE membership. Gene-Gene even filled in occasionally as one of the three mallet-wielding judges. Patton's popularity was such that his retirement from NBC in 1997 made the national news wires, unique attention for a stagehand. In a sad irony, both Patton's legs were amputated in the early 2000s due to complications from diabetes. He died in 2015.
  • Scarlett and Rhett were Chuck's dresser Jefferson Beeker and Costume Designer Peter Mins dressed as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. Their act always began with Rhett bellowing, "I don't give a damn!" and the shocked Scarlett gasping, "You can't say that on television!" Rhett would respond by asking, "Well, can I say this, Scarlett?" and launch into a vulgar riddle along the lines of "Why are pool tables green?" Scarlett would answer, "Why, Rhett?" "Because if someone was--" and the off-color punchline would invariably be bleeped out. After two or three jokes, and the same number of shocked reactions, Barris would stop the act and close the curtain.
  • Naso Literatus, played by Gong Show bandleader Milton DeLugg, wore an orange and white striped coat, black bow tie and a bowler hat. Naso would appear puffing on a cigar, carrying a large volume of bad jokes and riddles. Chuck would invariably become frustrated with Naso's trite, unfunny riddles and would end up insulting him, to which Naso would usually reply "Big deal!"; Chuck would then tell Naso to "take me into a commercial" and Naso would begin to sing the Gong Show theme music, instead of the band playing it.
  • Larry, The Evil Villain, played by the show's writer Larry Spencer, wore an old-fashioned black cape and top hat; the audience was encouraged to boo and hiss at him as if he were a villain from 19th century melodrama.
  • "Larry And His Magic _____", an alleged musician (also portrayed by Spencer) whose various appearances featured a series of different instruments. His call-and-response act featured him proclaiming, "I'm gonna play my (trumpet, trombone, xylophone, kettle drum, bass fiddle, accordion, clarinet, Moog synthesizer, etc.)" and the audience shouting back, "Whatcha gonna do?" This exchange would be repeated twice, after which he would announce, "I'm gonna play my (instrument) nowwww!" Instead of playing, though, he would merely repeat his audience-punctuated declaration. After a few verses of this, the skit would inevitably end with Spencer failing to play his instrument. Either time would run out, the instrument would malfunction or be booby-trapped, or he would manage to produce a few inept notes before being permanently interrupted by Barris.
  • Chuckie's Fables, featuring "The Mighty Gong Show Players", an alleged acting troupe (in actuality, members of the production and stage crews). Barris would flop into a rocking chair and read a narrative from an oversized storybook, while the Players, in whimsical costumes by Peter Mins, would pantomime the action behind him, including mouthing words of the dialogue that Barris would be reading. These stories always ended with a convoluted moral. The name was a takeoff on the "Mighty Carson Art Players" from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which in turn was a copy of Fred Allen's "Mighty Allen Art Players".
  • The Worm, a supposed "dance craze" consisting of three men who flung themselves to the floor and wriggled on the ground. At the end of each of their performances, Barris would come out and say "One – More – Time!" The Worm would often be performed four or five times in succession before the commercial break interrupted the men's performance.
  • The Whispers, a female trio who "whispered" popular songs. (An actual male R&B group also performs under this name, and is completely unrelated.)
  • BORK, a/k/a Johann Sebastian Bork, a performance artist who was dressed in 17th Century wig and suit, holding an unlit cigar, and carrying an upside-down children's book which he would place on the music rack of a piano and start playing.
  • Signs — A large sign displaying a humorous non sequitur hung from the back of the stage during some episodes.
  • Holidays — The show celebrated many holidays such as Christmas, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving, but invariably did so by singing the Irving Berlin standard, "Easter Parade". (When Easter was feted, the cast and crew would sing Berlin's "White Christmas".) The annual Christmas episode also featured a major rule change – in honor of the holiday spirit, judges were not permitted to gong contestants. Predictably, Christmas shows were heavily loaded with the most unappealing acts available.
  • Albert – On the ABC version, before the final act of the show performs, Tommy Maitland invites the audience and judges to a singalong, which is led by Albert. He always performs the same song, entitled "Shaving Cream".
  • Mitzi – Another character exclusive to the ABC version. After each performance, Maitland asks Mitzi to "bring them a nice cup of tea", along with an additional random object.
  • "Sethward the _____", an absurdist comedian exclusive to the ABC version. Sethward dressed up in homemade animal costumes and pretended to do a "trick." Most bits were met with confusion and judges quickly gonged. In the first season Sethward was a snake who Chelsea Handler said "looked more like a walrus." In the second season he came back as a walrus and a variety of other animals; one performance, in which he was dressed as a cow, was not gonged and had a leading score for much of the episode.


Barris as emcee[edit]

Chuck Barris in 1977

An established game show producer (The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game), Barris was originally the show's co-producer but not its host. He was an emergency replacement host for eventual Real People host John Barbour, who had objected to the show's satirical concept and tried to steer it toward a traditional amateur-hour format. An NBC executive who had watched Barris rehearse the show suggested that Barris replace Barbour. Barris accepted, but initially resisted the requirement that he wear a tuxedo, only agreeing to do so when NBC considered dropping the series altogether. Even then, Barris usually ended an episode with undone bowtie, shirt untucked and disheveled tails. In time, mandatory tuxedos gave way to more casual attire; later episodes had Barris in casual clothes such as blue jeans, very unusual for a television host of that era. Later, Barris began wearing a variety of silly-looking hats on stage, which were eventually seen hanging on a rack at stage right. He would frequently change hats during a show.

At first, Barris was ill at ease in front of the camera and was noticeably nervous in the show's first episodes. His nervous habit of clapping his hands together and pointing to the camera while talking became a staple of the show; by the show's second year, it had become a running gag. Audience members began clapping their hands in unison with Barris whenever they saw him doing it. Barris caught on, and would sometimes pretend to clap, deliberately stopping short to fool the audience.

Producer Chris Bearde, formerly of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, clashed with Barris over the show's content, favoring scripted comedy over chaotic nonsense. (Bearde's "new talent" segments on Laugh-In had featured oddball performers, the most famous being Tiny Tim.) Bearde eventually resigned from The Gong Show, leaving Barris fully in charge. Before long, Barris was working so loosely that some viewers assumed he was intoxicated from alcohol or other drugs. For example, he sometimes pulled his hat down over his eyes, totally obscuring them, and his mumbled dialogue was occasionally difficult to understand and he sometimes appeared to drool. Barris' words were often unclear and appeared to be nothing more than unscripted ramblings. Barris later recounted, in an interview with the Archive of American Television,[6] that he was never drunk, and that he would not allow the use of drugs in his production company.

If Barris enjoyed an act, it was obvious, as he would watch the act while beaming, clapping his hands or even dancing. After acts were gonged, Barris would often console the performers with sarcastic words of praise like "I really liked your act. But then again, I like rancid milk." The celebrity who had gonged the performer was typically asked "Why did you do that?" and was expected to provide an explanation, joke or further insult. Typically, Barris would lead into commercial breaks with the cryptic promise "We'll be back, with mor-re ssstuff – right after this message!"

Musical direction[edit]

Milton DeLugg, the show's musical director, was a popular musician and bandleader during the 1940s, and got the Gong Show job by default. As musical director for the network, he was responsible for any NBC project that required special music (like the annual telecasts of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade). Barris initially regarded DeLugg as "an anachronism", but he soon found that DeLugg was very much attuned to the crazy tone of the show. He appeared in recurring comedy skits as "Naso Literatus", who told bad jokes and riddles and philosopher, "Old Drool". His band, which Barris introduced as "Milton DeLugg and the Band With a Thug", included top jazz players like Bob Findley, Joe Howard and Lanny Morgan, and kept the show's energy level high. The band led into station breaks, with Barris's enthusiastic "Take me into the commercial, Milt!" Barris often joined the band on guitar when a good singer was performing. DeLugg remained associated with Barris for many years after Gong ended.

Veteran composer Joey Carbone provided musical arrangements for the late 1980s revival with his own lineup of studio musicians, known as "The Gong Show Guys".


Johnny Jacobs was the main announcer from 1976 to 1980. When Jacobs was sidelined with an extended illness, Jack Clark substituted from October 3, 1977 through December 23, 1977. Charlie O'Donnell served as announcer for the late-1980s revival.

In 1976, Carol Burnett (who did a sketch on The Carol Burnett Show in which her character Eunice Higgins, of the recurring The Family sketch, performed – and got gonged – on the show) introduced Barris: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce a man with the charm of Cary Grant, good looks of Robert Redford and the acting skills of Laurence Olivier. I'd like to meet that man, but until then, I'm stuck with Chuck Barris." That same year, actor Dick Van Dyke also introduced Barris; later in that episode, Barris promoted Van Dyke's short-lived NBC series Van Dyke and Company.


Hostesses included Siv Åberg (a Swedish-born model and actress who appeared on Barris's syndicated New Treasure Hunt), actress Marlena Clark, porn star Carol Connors and Barris's teenage daughter, Della.

Broadcast history[edit]


NBC decided to take a chance on the show to fix a scheduling problem at 12:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. Central). This was the network's least important time slot, as programs running at that time had to share the half-hour with a five-minute NBC newscast anchored by Edwin Newman. As a result, the first six-plus months of The Gong Show featured approximately twenty minutes of program content in a twenty-five-minute episode.

Many NBC affiliates in some larger markets opted not to run network programming during the noon hour at all, preferring to broadcast local news and talk shows instead. Thus Gong made its debut mainly on medium-market and smaller stations or on large-market rival stations that had picked up the program from the NBC affiliate that had rejected it. For example, in Boston, then-NBC affiliate WBZ did not run the series, allowing local UHF independent outlet WSBK-TV to air it.

Gong's time slot was given to a new soap opera, Lovers and Friends, on January 3, 1977, and the show was relocated to replace the cancelled Another World spinoff Somerset at 4:00 p.m. The time change allowed Gong to expand to a half-hour. However, Gong moved from one problem time to another, as the 4:00 p.m. network slot was frequently pre-empted (in fact, NBC soon relinquished the slot to affiliates for local programming). This left Gong unable to gain a ratings advantage over CBS' hit game show Tattletales and ABC's struggling but still popular soap opera The Edge of Night, as well as some popular syndicated programming on other stations. By early December, the network decided to return Gong to 12:30/11:30, but this time the show was able to run for a half-hour, as NBC ended their 12:55 five minute news broadcast.

NBC broadcast a one-hour prime-time Gong Show special on April 26, 1977, featuring in-studio special guests Tony Randall, Alice Cooper and Harry James and His Orchestra. The winning act on this special was The Bait Brothers, and the panelists were Jaye P. Morgan, Jamie Farr and Arte Johnson.[7]

Popsicle Twins incident[edit]

During The Gong Show's run, Barris became well known for his clashes with the network censors, intentionally bringing in risque acts as bait to allow some of the less racy acts to slip by. In 1978, one of these bait acts, two teenage girls referring to themselves as "Have You Got a Nickel?", made it onto the show. Their act consisted of the girls sitting cross-legged on the stage floor and silently eating popsicles in a manner that suggested they were performing fellatio on the frozen treats. The nature of the act led to the two girls being known as the "Popsicle Twins".

While they were able to complete their act without being gonged, two of the judges gave them low marks. Phyllis Diller gave them a zero, while Jamie Farr awarded them a marginally better 2. Jaye P. Morgan awarded them a 10, quipping, "Do you know that that's the way I started?" (She was rewarded with a popsicle from one of the girls as they left the stage.)

Surprisingly, the girls' act was approved by the censors, who apparently did not see anything wrong with it during the rehearsals. However, after the episode aired in the Eastern Time Zone, NBC cut the act from the later tape delay broadcast for western time zones.[8] The act was not cut from all the tapes, and the Popsicle Twins incident has aired in reruns and retrospectives. Barris said in a 2001 interview with that this particular act began making him reconsider his career.[8]


Despite its popularity and respectable ratings for a non-soap-opera midday show, NBC cancelled The Gong Show, with its final episode broadcast on July 21, 1978. At the time, there was much speculation as to the network's true motivations for dumping the show. Barris has commented that he heard that NBC's official reason was because of both "lower than expected ratings" and a desire by the network to "re-tailor the morning shows to fit the standard morning demographics" (the move coincided with the arrival of new NBC president Fred Silverman, who was well known for such programming overhauls and was reported to have disliked The Gong Show). America Alive!, a magazine-style variety program hosted by Art Linkletter's son Jack, replaced Gong.[9]

Following the cancellation, many critics and industry analysts – including Gene Shalit and Rona Barrett – reported having heard comments from within the NBC programming department from "sources preferring anonymity" that the true reason behind the cancellation was Barris's refusal to tone down the increasingly racy nature of the show. According to the sources, after the "Popsicle Twins" incident[8] and an episode in which Jaye P. Morgan exposed her breasts on air during a Gene Gene the Dancing Machine segment, Barris had been given an ultimatum by the network's Standards and Practices department to deliver cleaner shows for his audience, which included many younger viewers, or NBC would cancel the program. However, Barris continued to deliver shows with the same amount of questionable content, apparently in an effort to call the network's bluff.


NBC allowed Barris to continue the show for the rest of his contract, and Barris made no perceptible change in preparation for the finale. In the finale, staff member Larry Gotterer appeared as "Fenwick Gotterer" to host the show after Barris started the show doing a "Chuckie's Fables" sketch. The rest of the final episode tried to explain the life of the show and its cancellation. Barris managed to have the last word on the show's demise, appearing as a contestant. Playing in a country music band called "The Hollywood Cowboys" with the house band's rhythm section, Barris sang a slightly modified version of Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It", giving NBC the finger during the song to accentuate his point. NBC censored the gesture, with the word "OOPS!" superimposed over a still shot of the set. Barris was gonged by Jamie Farr, who quipped, "Because that little fella's been saying that I've been long of nose, I'm also long of gong, fella."

The group "Lobster Repair" (who performed Harry Belafonte's song "Day-O") won the final $516.32 and trophy of the NBC era. Gene Gene the Dancing Machine then came out after a few more skits, and said that the moral to the episode-long "Chuckie's Fable" was to "never bet against the Minnesota Vikings, at home, in the wintertime!" Following that, he did his famous dance. The rest of the cast, including staff members, people who participated and even Jaye P. Morgan (whom NBC had banned from appearing on the show over the breast-baring incident) all joined in at the end to dance with him.

In cancelling The Gong Show, NBC also evicted the show from its Burbank studios. As the nighttime syndicated Gong was still in production, and Barris was already using studio space at Golden West Broadcasting to tape The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The $1.98 Beauty Show, the set and production of Gong were moved there.

Syndicated (1976–80)[edit]

The Gong Show continued in syndication for two years after its daytime counterpart's cancellation, often airing on weekends and at night. The entire syndicated run from 1976 to 1980 was distributed by Firestone Program Services. While the series eventually met its demise in syndication as it had on NBC, according to Barris, the problem did not lie with any outrageous acts, but instead the controversy and public outcry over another series he had produced.

In September 1979, Barris launched the game show Three's a Crowd, which was a spin-off of The Newlywed Game. Instead of recently married couples trying to match answers, the wives and secretaries of married men would compete to show who knew the men better. Religious activists and feminist groups protested against Three's a Crowd and its ratings eventually forced the show's cancellation during the middle of the season.

In Barris' autobiography The Game Show King, he wrote that "the public backlash from Three's a Crowd not only caused the program to be canceled, but it took three other TV shows of mine with it. I went to my house in Malibu and stayed there for a year." Gong was one of those shows to be canceled, and Barris never hosted another series. The trauma from the Three's a Crowd's backlash was so severe, in the last several weeks of the Gong Show, Barris reportedly had "a small nervous breakdown" on-air, because he was "bored to death" with broadcasting.[10] His next two series, revivals of the 1960s game show Camouflage (the replacement for Three's a Crowd) and his 1973–77 series Treasure Hunt (toward which Barris had little or no input, according to host Geoff Edwards), both failed to find audiences and Barris went further into his self-imposed exile from television. Barris would not have another hit series until the 1985 syndication revival of The Newlywed Game.

Reruns of the NBC airings (with filler material inserted to pad out the 25-minute episodes) began in syndication in Fall 1979. The NBC and syndicated episodes were rerun on the USA Network and Game Show Network, although by the time GSN picked up the series, many episodes could not be aired because of musical performance clearance issues. No episodes from the first syndicated season were rerun.

Later incarnations[edit]

A syndicated weekday revival of The Gong Show, hosted by San Francisco disc jockey Don Bleu, ran during the 1988–89 season, but lasted only one year. Each winner was paid $701.

Extreme Gong, a later incarnation of The Gong Show on the Game Show Network had viewers vote on its acts by telephone. It was hosted by George Gray and ran from October 5, 1998 to October 1999, with reruns continuing for another year. Winners received $317.69. This version was well known for two known incidents: one episode featuring "Cody the Talking Dog" for which he tried to say things like "I love you" and "ice cream" but did not succeed in talking, and another featuring a Village People parody as The Village Little People where they sang a cover of "YMCA", taking the "Young Man" literally. Orange County comedy punk band The Radioactive Chicken Heads (then called Joe & the Chicken Heads) made their national television debut on Extreme Gong, though they were gonged midway through their performance. Near the end of the show's run, an hour-long "Tournament of Talent" special was aired in August 1999, with twelve previous winning acts (chosen by viewers via a phone-in poll) competing for a payoff of $10,000.

A few years after the cancellation of Extreme Gong, Sony Pictures Television decided to revive the game (under its original title and format) for The WB, and was to be hosted by South Florida radio and TV personality Phillip Benfield. Two pilots were made, but it was never picked up.

Comedy Central debuted a new incarnation called The Gong Show with Dave Attell, which lasted for 8 weeks in the summer of 2008.[11] The show's format was similar to the original, but its scoring was based on a scale of 0 to 500, and winning acts received $600. The $600 was shown as paid in cash on the spot, rather than being paid by check as in earlier versions, but in reality (because of contestant eligibility regulations by Sony) was paid as a check from Sony Pictures. In place of a typical trophy, winners were awarded a belt in the style of boxing championship belts.

A live stage version of The Gong Show took place at B.B. King's Blues Club, in the Times Square district of New York City on August 12, 2010.[12] It was produced by The Radio Chick, and is the Sony authorized stage production. This production went into development in 2011–12 and now runs regularly in New York City, with engagements in other U.S. cities.[13]

2017 revival[edit]

On October 3, 2016, ABC and Sony Pictures announced a 10-episode summer 2017 revival of The Gong Show executive produced by Will Arnett.[14][15]

The broadcast of the 2017 revival premiered on ABC on June 22, 2017,[16] hosted by previously-unknown "British comedian" Tommy Maitland. Maitland is, in fact, a character portrayed by Mike Myers, although neither ABC nor Myers confirmed this and ABC officially credited Maitland as host and executive producer.[17] Maitland's catchphrase is "Who's a cheeky monkey?"[18] He also periodically uses Barris' "back with more stuff" catchphrase to lead into commercials.

Celebrity guest judges for the 2017 revival included Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Alison Brie, Andy Samberg, Elizabeth Banks, Tracee Ellis Ross, Joel McHale, Megan Fox, Courteney Cox, Dana Carvey, Will Forte, Jack Black, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Jeong, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph and Anthony Anderson.[19] Among the more notable acts featured on the revival are The Radioactive Chicken Heads, making their second appearance on a Gong Show incarnation since Extreme Gong in 1998. The first season of this version also features a regular segment featuring a staff performer leading the audience in a sing-along of the novelty song "Shaving Cream", reminiscent of the recurring gag acts on the earlier version.

The winner of each show received a gong trophy and an oversized check in the amount of US$2,000.17, later increased by a penny the following year.[20] The final episode of the first season featured a memorial to Barris, who died prior to the series' premiere in 2017.

On January 8, 2018, ABC announced that the revival would be picked up for a second season, officially confirmed Myers as the portrayer of Maitland and crediting Myers as an executive producer by name.[21] The second (and final) season premiered on June 21, 2018.[22][better source needed] Celebrity guest judges for season 2 included Jimmy Kimmel, Jason Sudeikis, Brad Paisley, Dana Carvey, Alyson Hannigan, Ken Jeong, Kristen Schaal, and Rob Riggle.[22] However, the series was not renewed for a third season and was quietly cancelled.


In 1980, The Gong Show Movie was released by Universal Pictures to scathing reviews and was quickly withdrawn from theatrical release. Advertising proclaimed it as "The Gong Show That Got Gonged by the Censor". It is seen periodically on cable TV, but was not released on home video[23][24] until March 29, 2016, when the film was released on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory.[25]

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a film directed by George Clooney and written by Charlie Kaufman, was based on the semi-fictional autobiography of the same name by Chuck Barris. Part of the film chronicles the making of The Gong Show, and features several clips from the original series.

Following the success of the print and screen versions of Confessions, GSN produced a documentary called The Chuck Barris Story: My Life on the Edge, which included rare footage from the Gary Owens pilot.

International versions[edit]

Country Local name Host Network Year aired
Middle East and North Africa Arab World Al-Koung الكونج Fahed Qamara RTC 1 June 16, 2019 – present
Australia Australia The Gong Show Tim Evans Network Ten 1976 (lasted for three weeks)
Germany Germany Die Gong-Show Paul Kuhn
Götz Alsmann
Marco Ströhlein
India India Sabse Badhkar Gong ? Sony TV mid-1990s
Indonesia Indonesia Gong Show Arie Untung and Fenita Arie Trans TV 2006–2012
Gong Show Indonesia Gracia Indri RCTI 2019–2020
Thailand Thailand ก็องโชว์ Shahkrit Yamnam iTV 2003
United Kingdom United Kingdom The Gong Show Frankie Howerd Channel 4 December 1985 (pilot)
United States United States The Gong Show Chuck Barris NBC 1976–78
Gary Owens
Chuck Barris
Don Bleu
Syndication 1976–77
Extreme Gong George Gray GSN 1998–99
The Gong Show with Dave Attell Dave Attell Comedy Central July 17, 2008 – September 4, 2008
The Gong Show Tommy Maitland (Mike Myers) ABC June 22, 2017 – August 30, 2018


At the height of the Gong Show's popularity, NBC gave Barris a prime-time variety hour, The Chuck Barris Rah Rah Show. This was played somewhat more seriously than the Gong Show, with Jaye P. Morgan singing straight pop songs as in her nightclub and recording days, and bygone headliners like Slim Gaillard reprising their old hits for a studio audience. Other spinoffs include The $1.98 Beauty Show hosted by Rip Taylor and The Gong Show Movie.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jammie Farr. "The Gong Show" Foundation Interviews. Emmy TV Legends.
  2. ^ "The Gong Show". TVparty. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b Orth, Maureen (February 24, 2019). "Gong Show contestant". Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  4. ^ "Green Jello on the Gong Show". Green Jello on the Gong Show. greenjello333. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  5. ^ "Danny's Death: A Travesty of Justice". Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Chuck Barris Interview". Archive of American Television. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  7. ^ The All-Star Gong Show Special on IMDb
  8. ^ a b c Kaufman, King (March 6, 2001). "Chuck Barris". Salon.
  9. ^ "TV: 'America Alive' Makes Debut on NBC".
  10. ^ "Chuck Barris, Wacky Host and Creator of 'The Gong Show,' Dies at 87".
  11. ^ "New 'Gong Show' Coming to Comedy Central". TV Week. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  12. ^ Dollar, Steve. "Flocking to Meet (and Avoid) the Gong". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  13. ^ "The Gong Show Live". Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  14. ^ O'Neill, Natalie. "ABC bringing back oddball game show 'The Gong Show'". The New York Post. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  15. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "Will Arnett and ABC are reviving the '70s quasi-talent show 'The Gong Show'". Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  16. ^ Gettell, Oliver (June 7, 2017). "Mike Myers gets cheeky in The Gong Show trailer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  17. ^ Romano, Nick (May 3, 2017). "Mike Myers debuts new character, Gong Show host Tommy Maitland". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  18. ^ Furdyk, Brent (2017-06-07). "Mike Myers Is A 'Cheeky Monkey' In First Look At 'Gong Show' Reboot". ET Canada. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
  19. ^ Rose, Lacey (April 28, 2017). "ABC's 'Gong Show' Reboot Taps One Very Interesting Host". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  20. ^ Ali, Lorraine. "'The Gong Show' reboots and 'Boy Band' dances to distract in a new era of tumult".
  21. ^ "ABC Renews The Gong Show for a Second Season". 8 January 2018.
  22. ^ a b "The Gong Show: Season Two; Mike Myers Game Show Return Set by ABC – canceled TV shows – TV Series Finale". canceled TV shows – TV Series Finale. 2018-04-19. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  23. ^ "The Gong Show Movie (1980)". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  24. ^ "The Gong Show Movie (1980)". Shock Cinema. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  25. ^ "The Gong Show Movie bangs Blu-ray in March – Inside Pulse".

External links[edit]