To say that The Gong Show had an impact on my life is like saying water is wet. My father and I watched it together howling with laughter. It was funny and happy and just a little dangerous.
I watched the show like an instruction manual. Dad said that The Gong Show was Vaudeville’s last gasp. I would take note of the jokes that made Dear Old Dad laugh and perform them at school the next day.
One gag that stands out in my memory was something a Gong Show contestant called “The Great napkin Trick”. The next day I stood up in front of my first grade class, performed “The Great Napkin Trick”. My classmates seemed to think it was gross and funny.
Alas, Sister Mary Margret did not find “The Great napkin Trick” funny. In fact, she slapped me so many times I lost count. Then she had a priest lecture me about doing perverted things with napkins in class.
I asked the priest if I could do perverted things with napkins at home and he slapped me.
Wondering if the routine would go over better if I used my finger instead of my tongue, I pulled another napkin out of my pocket and performed “The Great Napkin Trick” with my finger instead of my tongue.
The priest slapped me and sent me back to class.
The Gong Show was my first taste of comedic anarchy. It was like prep school before moving on to the Marx Brothers.
Thank you, Chuck Barris. For the laughter with my dad and the laughter as I got my ass beat by offended clergy. You were one funny son of a gun.