Question: What memorable song was a top-five hit for Willie Nelson in 1982, and for the Pet Shop Boys in 1988?
Last Question: What series went off the air in 1980 despite the efforts of the Unknown Comic and Gene Gene the Dancing Machine?
Answer: The Gong Show
Before there was American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Got Talent, there was the ultimate talent competition – The Gong Show! The Gong Show ran from 1976 to 1980. It was produced and hosted by Chuck Barris.
Each show presented a contest between amateur performers of often dubious talent, with a panel of three celebrity judges. Some of the regular judges were Jamie Farr, Arte Johnson, Phyllis Diller, and Rex Reed. The performers would have around 45 seconds to perform. Then they would be given a score by each of the judges. If one of the judges though that a performer was ridiculously bad, the would strike a large gong with a big mallet. Sometimes an act was “Gang-Gonged”, meaning it was so bad that it was gonged by two or even all three judges at once. The contestant who achieved the highest combined score won the grand prize of what Chuck Barris referred to as the “highly unusual amount of” $516.32 (reportedly the Screen Actors Guild’s minimum pay for a day’s work) and a “Golden Gong” trophy. The syndicated series’ top prize was originally $712.05 and later increased to $716.32.
The show had many running gags and characters who appeared as regular performers, including:
The Unknown Comic: