Mike Myers is the secret star of this summer’s talent show
Enjoy his submersion in persona of ‘The Gong Show’ host before he gets bored
A woman who plays the harmonica with a tarantula in her mouth. A guy on the piano performs standing on his head. A couple spits bananas into each other’s mouths.
And that’s just in the first 15 minutes of the première of the rebooted The Gong Show.
Talent shows are a dime a dozen nowadays, but there was only one uber un-talent show, and it ran on NBC in the 1970s.
“The Gong Show” was conceived long before YouTube, but the concept is well suited for the bite-sized, Carpool-Karaoke world of social media.
Much of the current ’70s gameshow revival, which includes “Battle of the Network Stars” and “The $100,000 Pyramid,” is bland enough to evoke a U.S. president of the era, Gerald Ford.
However, in the case of “The Gong Show” — airing Thursdays on ABC and Citytv — there is some spice: It comes in the form of host Tommy Maitland, who uses the Queen and Union Jack as backdrops, just in case you don’t grasp that he’s British.
Unlike the manic original show’s host Chuck Barris, Maitland, whose favourite line is “Who’s a cheeky monkey?” is butter smooth. His jokes are all Graham Norton — full of sexual innuendo and saucy side-glances. “I haven’t had this much fun since Dolly Parton showed me how she keeps her guitar picks warm,” he says smugly.
The only similarity to Barris, who died in March, is that on occasion Maitland will wear a hat — in this case that of a matador. Barris wore an endless array of different hats, all pulled so low over his eyes, which became part of the character of the show.
“Turn on your telly and turn off your brain,” Maitland reminds today’s audiences, as he presides over a trio of fellow comic performers who serve as the judges; in the première, it was Will Arnett, Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis.
The premise remains simple. Unlike “America’s Got Talent” or “The Voice,” or any of the other variety shows that now populate the airwaves, there’s no hunt for future stars here — quite the opposite. The show instead finds amateurs who are truly awful and sees who can complete a performance before someone sounds the gong to put a stop to them.
The winner, or loser if you like, picks up a $2,000 cheque, about equivalent to the $500.32 that Barris offered four decades ago, if you factor in inflation.
So far the new version lacks legendary returning “talent” such as Gene Gene The Dancing Machine or Murray Langston, who performed as the Unknown Comic with a bag over his head. In fact, the most remarkable act on “The Gong Show” is not any of the competitors.
The true talent is Maitland himself, who happens to be the alter ego of a completely unrecognizable Mike Myers.
The show credits give no hint who the host really is, and many viewers likely have no clue. But beneath the prosthetics, which likely take most of the day to put on, is a demonstration of one actor’s impressive, full-on crazy dedication to his craft.
The Canadian comedic star is known for creating characters that become rooted in our culture. Lovable slacker Wayne from “Wayne’s World,” in a basement modelled after his own in his beloved Scarborough, comes to mind, as do swinging ’60s super secret agent Austin Powers and the Scots-tinged voice of animated ogre Shrek.
It’s unlikely the show will last. So catch it while you can before Myers gets bored. It’s not quite Roger Federer in his twilight years winning Wimbledon, but seeing the gifted performer go full-on Col. Kurtz in this comedic heart of darkness — where is he taking this? — is special, even if he doesn’t always hit the mark.
Mike Myers hosts “The Gong Show” in the guise of British “comedy legend” Tommy Maitland.