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The Gong Show
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The Gong Show

The Gong Show was a variety show spoof which ran in the USA during the 1970s. It was hosted by Chuck Barris. Each show presented a contest between amateur performers of often questionable talent, with a panel of celebrity guests serving as the judges (among the most frequent of which were Jaye P. Morgan and Jamie Farr). If the panel members considered an act to be particularly bad, they could hit a gong during its performance, which would end it immediately. If the act survived without being gonged, they were given a score by the judges. The winning contestant earned a prize of $516.32.

Chuck Barris, an established game show producer but not a polished game show host, had a nervous habit of sometimes clapping his hands together while talking. This developed into a running gag during the show, as the audience members clapped their hands in unison with Barris whenever they saw him doing it. The show had certain characters who appeared as regular performers, such as the ‘Unknown Comic’ who told bad jokes while wearing a paper bag over his head. Also appearing was Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, a middle-aged man of colour with a green warm-up suit who came onstage to dance while members of the crew threw random – usually not harmful – items at him. Gene Gene’s arrival was always treated as though it were a surprise to everyone on the show, especially Barris, who would then commence to frolic on the set. The Gene Gene the Dancing Machine segments were perhaps the most pure expressions of raw joy ever seen on USA television.

In 1980, a Gong Show movie was produced. This movie was considered to be among the worst ever made.