The Unknown Comic
|The Unknown Comic|
Murray Langston, in character as "The Unknown Comic."
|Birth name||Murray Langston|
June 27, 1945 |
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 adopted by Canadian actor and stand-up comic Murray Langston (born June 27, 1945, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada), best known for his comic performances on The Gong Show, in which he usually appeared with a paper bag over his head. As of 2015, Langston was making his residence in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada.
Murray Langston was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 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 as a sailor during the Vietnam War but never saw any actual combat.
In 1970 Langston began his show business career 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. After they both appeared 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, alongside other regular performers as Ted Zeigler, Peter Cullen and Teri Garr.
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. He also worked with Foxx, Joan Rivers, Jim Carrey, Ruth Buzzi, and many other comedians, as well as creating comedic situations—appearing in several segments—for Candid Camera.
Early in his career, Langston had invested in a nightclub restaurant called "SHOW-BIZ." Several now-famous people worked there as servers, including Debra Winger, Michael Keaton (then known as Michael Douglas), David Letterman, Gallagher, Tim Reid and Freddie Prinze Sr.; however, the club closed within two years, exhausting 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, that were cut by Paul Poeschl, 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.
"The Unknown Comic" appeared on more than 150 episodes of the Gong Show and also entertained as a celebrity judge on several other television shows. He also wrote for The Gong Show for a short time as well as appearing regularly in Las Vegas and making the rounds of many popular talk/variety shows. In the early '80s, Langston revealed himself as "The Unknown Comic" on an episode of Real People in which the show's hosts pulled off the bag on his head. He also revealed his true identity 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 which starred a very young Jim Carrey. He also wrote the screenplays for the films Night Patrol (1984), Up Your Alley (1988) and Wishful Thinking (1997) as well as being the co-host of "The NEW Truth or Consequences" (1987). He also had a role in the children's TV series E.M.U-TV (1989) as "Murray the Technical Director."
Langston most recently reappeared as "The Unknown Comic" in the film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002). He wrote, directed and performed in Dirty Jokes: The Movie and inspired by the hit stage 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 went into semi-retirement from show business to concentrate on raising his daughters as a single father. His elder daughter, Myah Marie, became a singer-songwriter who had written and published more than 50 songs by the time she reached the age of 19; she was known to have recorded with notable pop stars including Britney Spears. His younger daughter Mary continued to live with Langston on their hillside ranch near the mountain town of Tehachapi, California.
Since 2000, Langston occasionally appeared as a stand-up comic in Las Vegas and was reported to be writing a memoir.
- Rabin, Nathan (18 April 2001). "Murray Langston - The Unknown Comic". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Ross, John (26 October 2009). "Murray Langston – Out of the Bag". AmericasComedy.com. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Eakin, Marah; Teti, John; Adams, Erik (16 June 2014). "Bonus round stars: 9 celebrities who found their greatest fame on game shows". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 20 June 2014.