11 gong-worthy facts about 'The Gong Show'
It produced some chart-topping hits and near misses.
Image: Everett Collection
In 2017, NBC brought back The Gong Show.
This revival got us reminiscing about the original program, which debuted in 1976 and was hosted by Barris. The Gong Show was ridiculously entertaining to watch, even if it did produce some great talent.
Here are 11 things you never knew about the amateur talent show. And no, we didn't forget about the "Popsicle Twins."
1. Audiences originally hated the show.
Before The Gong Show went on the air, it had to go through test audiences. The results weren't good. The game show became the poorest daytime show the network had ever tested. NBC's director of daytime programming at the time, Madeline David, said The Gong Show was eventually put on the air because enough people believed in it.
Image: NBC via YouTube
2. There was a host before Chuck Barris.
People often associate the show with its host, Chuck Barris. But before the giddy emcee came along, the more rigid John Barbour ran the show. Barris claimed Barbour "just didn't understand the concept," and was let go because of poor ratings.
Image: NBC via YouTube
3. Only 10 percent of applicants made it on the show.
Even though The Gong Show was a type of audition, contestants had to apply and audition before they could make it on the program. The show's popularity meant only about 10 percent of people who applied were actually able to get on television.
4. Weird Al Yankovic was one of those people who didn't make it.
The singer known for his spot-on parodies auditioned for The Gong Show with one of his friends while he was in college. "We did a song called 'Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung' and the audience seemed to enjoy it," said Yankovic. However, the "Eat It" singer never got a callback.
5. The show produced some serious talent.
Even if The Gong Show missed some talent along with way, plenty of successful people made it on the program. Singer Cheryl Lynn was signed to a recording contact after appearing on the show and recorded the disco romp "Got to Be Real." Twelve-year-old Andrea McArdle was on the show shortly before winning the lead in the hit musical Annie on Broadway.
6. The grand prize wasn't all that random.
The highly unusual amount of $516.32 was not was weird as it seemed. It was actually the minimum amount for one day's work according to the Screen Actors Guild. Well played, The Gong Show.
7. The dwarf throwing confetti was in 'The Wizard of Oz.'
Whenever Barris announced the final score, a fancily dressed dwarf would come onstage and throw around confetti. It was a funny gag, but the man in the suit actually appeared in The Wizard of Oz as one of the munchkins. In fact, Jerry Maren is the last surviving cast member of the classic 1939 film.
8. Yep, they made it into a movie.
Why would they make a movie about a game show, you ask? We have no clue, but they did. Chuck Barris directed, wrote and starred in the 1980 flop billed as "The Gong Show that was gonged by the censor."
Image: Universal Pictures
9. This isn't the first time the networks have tried to bring it back.
After the series was canceled in 1978, it was put into syndication until 1980. Later that decade, it was revived briefly for a year with host Don Bleu. Ten years later, it was brought back as Extreme Gong, where the viewers could decide the fate of the contestants. Finally, in 2008, Comedy Central debuted The Gong Show with Dave Attell.
Image: Comedy Central
10. The "Popsicle Twins" live in infamy.
One of the biggest incidents on the show was the act known as "Have You Got a Nickel." Infamously known as the "Popsicle Twins," the girls beat the censors by wearing skimpy outfits and sitting on the stage while eating popsicles. Because this was the 1970s, the network panicked and pulled the segment from other time zones. Barris said in an interview in 2001 that the act made him reconsider his career.
11. One of the judges flashed the audience.
One of the final straws for The Gong Show was when judge Jaye P. Morgan, not to be confused with famous American banker, flashed the audience in 1978. Occurring just a few weeks after the "Popsicle Twins," Morgan was fired from the program despite the incident never making it onto the broadcast. A few weeks later, the series was canceled.