Wednesday, October 05, 2016

My all-time favorite GONG SHOW act

You know television -- one show becomes even a modest hit and every network scrambles to put on seven just like it.   This summer ABC ran a series of rebooted vintage game shows.  ($25,000 PYRAMID, MATCH GAME, etc.) and I guess the numbers were decent (i.e. anyone was watching) so now they're going back and seeing what other retro game shows they can raise from the dead.

First up:  THE GONG SHOW. 

For those who don't remember the original from the '70s and '80s, it was essentially AMERICA'S GOT TALENT but with idiots.  Most of the performers were awful and got "gonged" off the stage.  I don't think you were allowed to join the improv group, the Groundlings unless you had been on that show six times.  Most of the non-traditional talents were goofs (or at least I'd like to think so).   It's the kind of thing that's funny for like three episodes then YOU give them a gong.  

Show creator/CIA operative Chuck Barris produced and hosted.  At the time he was considered a clown.  Today he'd be the Republican candidate for president.   There was even a movie about him that George Clooney directed called CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND.  

Personal note:  He's also the guy who threw me off THE DATING GAME

But with the prospect of this show reappearing (ABC bought it with Will Arnett directing) I thought I would share my all-time favorite GONG SHOW act.   This aired in September 1977 but only on the east coast.  You'll see why.   They won't let me embed it so you'll have to click here and go to the link.  It's worth it.

Stay for the whole thing because panelist Jaye P. Morgan has the line of lines. 

I can't imagine how the new version could possibly be an improvement over this.


Rockgolf said...

That was REAL?!?!

It's dirtier than I ever imagined!

Elf said...

How did I know that if there was going to be a link to the original show it would be the Popsicle girls?

Here's a great trivia question if you ever need to win a bar bet: Name at least one person who won first place on the original Gong Show and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. Answer: Composer Danny Elfman.

Carol said...

Remember the $1.93 Beauty Pageant? Hosted by Rip Torn, I think? I watched that and the Gong Show as a kid.

We watch the Match Game now on Buzzr TV. It's amusing, if only for the hideous the host wears.

Peter said...

I wouldn't worry about him throwing you off The Dating Game. After all, this is the show that allowed Rodney Alcala to come on as a contestant despite being a convicted rapist and registered sex offender and, as it later turned out, one of the worst serial killers in history. They obviously can't have known he was a serial killer but you'd think they'd carry out basic checks on things like, you know, whether one of their contestants is a bit rapey.

A little extra bit of trivia on this. One of the other contestants on the same show as Alcala was Jed Mills, who went on to become an actor in everything from Seinfeld and Hill Street Blues to Casino and most recently a Hanukkah themed web comedy called Eight Crazy Dates (thank you IMDB).

Tim Gray said...

Wow. The Popsicle Twins. I remember the Jiggle Era of TV but this is ... I just ... I mean Chuck Barris always seemed more playful than lascivious but this really ... uh. I'm speechless. Those girls were brave. I wonder what they are doing now.

Jaye P. Morgan's response makes Sue Ann Nivens ("How do you think I got the job?") seem like an amateur.

This again proves why your blog is one of each day's most worthwhile reads.

My favorite Gong Show memory is the woman in a slinky dress (what in those days I understood as "elegant" but which was probably tacky as hell) standing on stage with a huge oversized cardboard box over her head. Her act consisted of repeated exclamations of "Help! I can't get this box off my head!" each more urgent than the last.

That's entertainment.

Mike Barer said...

Chuck kind of represented the decade.

Thomas said...

CLASSIC! I watched that show every day. My fav was Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine.

Stephen Marks said...

Ken nailed it, "American's Got Talent but with idiots" is exactly what it was. Between this show, Hee Haw and The Solid Gold Dancers every demographic in North America was covered, except for the one guy watching McNeil-Lehrer on PBS, William F. Buckley Jr. Poor guy was all alone defying that "no man is an island" thing. Jaye P. Morgan looked like Jane Fonda and acted like Mae West, why she wasn't mentioned in that "How do you handle breasts" post of Ken's 2 weeks ago is beyond me. Girl owned less bras than I do. I remember Allan Ludden was on the panel once, he had the same look on his face Laurence Olivier got flipping through channels and landing on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Stoney said...

When did Phillis Diller turn into a friggin' nun? Maybe she was genuinely mortified.

Freud said "Sometimes a popsicle is just a popsicle".

There's at least a dozen names of current relevance you could insert into 'Oddly enough, this also happens to be ____________ _____________'s favorite moment!

YEKIMI said...

This show was my guilty pleasure. Many a time I got a huge belly laugh from some of the acts and panelists. Chuck Barris has to be about 128 by now but I'd love to see him hosting this version.

LouOCNY said...

God Bless the Popsicle Twins

Unkystan said...

The $1.98 Beauty Show was hosted by Rip Taylor.

Craig said...

I had an idea what was in store when I saw the name of the performers. Oh my...

Chuck probably booked them for a reason beyond performing on the show.

He's now just 87 according to Google.

Peter said...

Regarding The Popsicle Twins...

What's the big deal? Looks perfectly wholesome to me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hated that show. Jaye P Morgan was the only saving grace, always with the best lines. But it was just cringe worthy and after watching one or two had pretty much seen it all.

Pam, St. Louis

Peter said...

Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, complete with Jaye P Morgan flashing her breasts.

Eric J said...

Never missed a show. It was a crazy decade. The Gong Show fit right in. I remember the Popsicle Girls act, but I haven't watched the youtube video. I have things to do today and I'm certain there are at least a days worth of Gong Show videos over there. Can't risk it.

John Hammes said...

The show that gave us the "Unknown Comic" and "Gene Gene The Dancing Machine".

So many moments. A teen who could belch the alphabet. Miss Peggy Guy. A personal favorite was the woman who could not get the box off of her head. That the set up and payoff... all she did was put a large box over her head, unconvincingly struggle with it, and even more unconvincingly deliver the lines "...I can't get this box off my head... somebody get this box off my head...". There was an Elvis impersonator, actually pretty good, whose schtick was that the particular Elvis song in question just would not end. The list is endless. Still, inspired talent here and there - The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo - and by and large, good natured goofiness all around. People knew full well what they were getting into. No actual contestants were harmed in the making of this product. Egos, maybe.

Unknown said...

I wrote this somewhere else a few days ago, but it bears repeating here.

A while back, I read an interview with Rip Taylor, a frequent Gong Show "judge".

According to Taylor, the whole show was a put-on, beginning to end.

Everybody got paid, scale.

Remember the odd amount of the "big prize"? That was scale, after the FICA tax was deducted.

It was like Chuckie said at the start of every show (quote approximate):

"All our contestants know that they might be Gonged, but they don't mind.
They're here to have fun and be seen on Tee Wee, coast to coast!"

And you might recall that the roughest gags were reserved for Chuck Barris himself.
He was the one who got stuff thrown at him, or dumped on him, or dropped on top of him (like the stage curtain), or had stagehands "beat him up", or any number of other indignities.

Oh, and as regards The Act:
I ask you to remember that the East Coast feed also went to the Midwest and Mountain states.
That meant that most of the country got to see the two young ladies on schedule.
I definitely remember seeing this act in Chicago, at 11:30 am, Central Time.
(Well, actually, closer to a quarter to noon, but you get the idea.)
So there too.

ScottyB said...

"The Gong Show" was just fine resting in peace because, well, it was stupid campy perfection that I can't imagine being re-created any more than trying to re-create Charles Nelson Reilly. TGS *was* the '70s, when just about everything TV was stupid; it was an attitude.

"Make Me Laugh" would've been a better game show from the '70s to dig up from the dead, IMO.

John Nixon said...

I'm pretty sure that the popsicle girl on the left played Mary Hartman's sister on that show. A huge reason that the Gong Show was popular was because of Chuck Barris...he was as strange and funny as everyone else on the show. It's hard to imagine a remake having any success. Two game shows that I think could possibly be successfully repeated are The Liar's Club and Make Me Laugh.

Frankipop said...

The two acts I remember from the Gong Show were a punk band called Static Clink that sang "I Want to Be a Sausage", and a Japanese fellow who sang about being molested whilst hitchhiking ("at ninety miles an hour, it's hard to get away...:)

Anybody else remember these acts. I haven't been able to find clips on the internet...

Jeff Maxwell said...

I watched that act 37 or 48 times this morning, and I just don't find it funny. I'll watch it a few more times this afternoon.

The Gong Show and our upcoming election proves anything is possible.

DBenson said...

I imagine some kid watching this on his iPad. He suddenly freezes and stammers, "Grandma?"

DBenson said...

That show offered a mix of "comically" unattractive women and truckstop hotties in tiny swimsuits. After the talent portion, every contestant had to exit by running up a curving staircase. The concept seemed to be sub-Playboy sleaze rendered semi-respectable by the comedy veneer.

Scott said...

Technically, they weren't popsicles--.they were Big Sticks. Which is even more appropriate.

MikeK.Pa. said...

The Unknown Comic is shopping for new paper bags as I write this. If Will Arnett is the host, this show has a short shelf life.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing "The Gong Show Movie" back in 1981. Yes, there was a movie. It even featured Jaye P Morgan singing about her breasts.

Rob D said...

@ John Nixon - Yes, she resembles Debra Lee Scott. But I don't think it's her.

Unknown said...


I actually saw The Gong Show Movie - in a theater!

The Berwyn Theatre, in the like-named western suburb, during the theatrical release in 1981
(long before Svengoolie).

The movie credits Chuck Barris as its director, but I'd read that he replaced Robert Downey Sr. (Junior was still a kid at this point - he might have made a walk-on, I don't know for sure).

I was but a lad of 30 summers, and the theater was far from full (and this was a Saturday afternoon).

But (surprise, surprise) I actually kinda liked the darn thing.
I have no excuse, beyond being a fan of the TV show, and I knew full well that any "critic" who bothered to write a review probably had it written without bothering to actually see it ... but there you are.

I do recall thinking that the big production number at the finish - "Don't Get Up For Me!" - deserved at least a mention for the Best Song Oscar (if you think I jest, just remember the kinds of songs that were getting nominations during this period).

The Berwyn Theater has been dormant for many years, as are most old neighborhood movie palaces (the ones where the building is still standing, anyway).

"Long ago, and oh so far away ..."

Johnny Walker said...

Lol. There's no way you could get away with an "act" like this today! It would be Nipplegate 2.0.

I guess the whole idea behind the show was people doing deliberately dumb things for the amusement of the audience. It looks like you'd need another Chuck Barris to make it work, though.

Unknown said...

If I didn't make it clear enough above ...

The reason Gong Show worked was because Chuck Barris was willing to look like a bigger fool than the contestants; that took the sting away, so to speak.

My understanding is that Chuck was a last-minute replacement for the terminally pompous John Barbour, who didn't "get it" - much as he didn't get the other shows he was fired from over the years.

Brother Herbert said...

Didn't even have to click on the link to know this was about the Popsicle Girls. And yes, Jaye P. got it while the other two either didn't or played dumb.

While we're in the neighborhood, Mark Evanier posted a small remembrance right after Gene Gene died. He was present in the studio for a Gene Gene appearance and wrote about how truly magical the whole place became for those few minutes: